The South Carolina Pro-Am began playoff play Sunday afternoon at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, with all eight teams - including several current and former USC players - in action.
In the first game, Brian Steele and Michael Carrera's team faced off against a team void of any current Gamecocks players.
Michael Carrera stuffed the stat sheets with possibly his best performance of the summer. The junior forward was near-impossible to stop Sunday, as he racked up a double-double. Carrera slashed to the hoop with ease and showed impressive touch near the basket. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to go along with two rundown blocks.
Brian Steele added 21 points of his own - 16 of them in the second half - seven rebounds and two assists. A pair of fastbreak dunks and a deep three late in the second half highlighted his performance.
The pair helped their team to a healthy 128-95 victory. They'll advance to the second round of the playoffs, which take place on Monday night.
In the second game, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Duane Notice helped their team advance against a team without any current USC players, but which had former Clemson forward Milton Jennings. Notice continued his impressive stretch of play at the S.C. Pro-Am, showing great command of the offense and a good shooting touch from outside.
The sophomore from Canada dished seven assists, grabbed four rebounds and scored 24 points - including four clutch free throws in the final minute - to help his team win 91-88. Chatkevicius was largely outmatched by the quicker and more aggressive Jennings, but he pitched in 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists nonetheless.
Chatkevicius did show some resilience against Jennings in the paint. He buried two brilliantly-executed hook shots over Jennings close to the basket, and after Jennings dunked over him in the second half, Chatkevicius took a pass from Notice and flushed a dunk over Jennings' head on the other end.
The third game featured TeMarcus Blanton and Reggie Theus Jr.'s team against Sindarius Thornwell and Demetrius Henry's team.
Blanton and Theus' team advanced with a 78-66 victory, ending Thornwell and Henry's run in the Pro-Am. Blanton started the game on fire, playing airtight defense on Thornwell and scoring 12 first-half points.
But after Blanton knocked away two entry passes to Thornwell and blocked one of his midrange jumpers, Thornwell decided he'd had enough.
The sophomore from Lancaster, South Carolina, began slashing to the basket at will, taking the rookie on one-on-one and beating him. He finished with 23 points - including three 3-pointers - and nine rebounds.
Blanton scoring pace slowed in the second half with Thornwell draped all over him, but he finished with 19 points - including four 3-pointers - and six rebounds.
Henry struggled all-around, missing jumper after jumper while the bigger-bodied Jermaine Johnson bullied him in the paint. He scored six points and hauled in seven rebounds. Theus played sparingly, scoring two points with a rebound.
It was Blanton and Theus' team's first win in the Pro-Am.
The last game of the night pitted Justin McKie and Austin Constable against Mindaugas Kacinas and Marcus Stroman.
Stroman put on a show; the freshman point guard scored 25 points to lead Kacinas and the rest of his teammates to a 93-92 victory.
Stroman also dished eight assists and hauled in five rebounds, while Kacinas struggled to make an impact, finishing with six points, six rebounds and a block.
McKie scored 21 points Sunday, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block. Constable logged nine points, on three 3-pointers, and two steals.
The S.C. Pro-Am playoffs continue at 7 p.m. Monday night at Heathwood Hall.
Bernie's Chicken (Notice/Chatkevicius) will play Coca-Cola Consolidated (Carrera/Steele) in the first game, and Lourie & Bernstein (Kacinas/Stroman) will play Brooklyn Baptist (Blanton/Theus Jr.) in the second game.
The league championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.