Saturday, August 8, 2015

They Went to Disney World: God First Crusade to be #1 takes them through Sunshine State


The God First Crusaders journey to play for a national championship began on July 6, 2015 when the Crusaders drove 14 hours from Houston to Orlando to embark on a 19 day trip. After taking their time to drive via van and bond as a family…their first order of business was participating in the first annual Bigfoot Hoops Orlando Summer Classic. Their first pool play opponent was Team Legacy from Florida and the score was 98-28. Isaiah LeBlanc had 24, Stayve Thomas, Jr. had 21 Braelon Seals had 19 and Tramon Mark had 13. The next opponent the Huntington Heat (WV) fell 86-33, LeBlanc had 27, Mark had 21 and Thomas had 12. Broward Sharks (FL) were the final pool play opponent and GFC rolled 59-28 Isaiah LeBlanc led a balanced attack with 18. Bracket play ensued and Laredo Fast break were the first opponents out of pool play. The final score of 61-37 again showcased a balanced GFC attack with LeBlanc having 14, Thomas having 13, Mark having 10 and Seals having 10. The night cap game featured an anticipated matchup between God First and the Boston Spartans. Both teams came into the game undefeated but GFC jumped on the Spartans early and never looked back. The final score of 68-35 proved how potent the God First defensive schemes can be against their opponents. LeBlanc continued to cook with 28 points, while Mark continued to dominate with 18 points and 12 assists. The Championship was anticipated to be a big time matchup with God First facing a very talented Nebraska Hoops Elite team. That matchup never happened with the Broward Sharks pulling off an upset over Nebraska Hoops Elite, which set up a Championship game featuring a rematch between GFC and the Broward Sharks. This game was much closer than the first meeting with GFC winning 57-45. Isaiah LeBlanc led all scorers, despite the full court face guard, with 22 points (6-3’s) and Markus Diggs had his best output of the trip with 12 points. God First Crusaders were crowned the 13 and under platinum division Champions with an impressive 6-0 record and double digit victories in each game.

Then next few days God First enjoyed some rest and relaxation with the team taking in a trip to Universal Studios together. The Crusaders also enjoyed various activities provided by the resort that hosted them throughout their stay in Orlando. GFC enjoyed off days filled with Outlet shopping, miniature golf, arcade games, workout facilities, beach volleyball and usage of all three resort pools and water slides. When not embarking on the amenities of the resort, the players enjoyed playing NBA 2K on PS4 in each of the rooms while rotating usage of Netflix. Needless to say, Orlando served as the perfect backdrop to bond and draw near to one another. The Crusaders also took time out of their schedule to unofficially visit the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, FL and Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge, LA. Great opportunity to visualize their goals and see that their hard work can produce tangible rewards. Their next order of business was competing in the 14 and under AAU national tournament hosted at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

The first opponent on July 18, 2015 was ESPM HZ from Philadelphia, PA. This 14 and under team proved to be one of the most physical teams GFC has ever played, but God First found a way to win 59-51. The two headed monster of Tramon Mark and Isaiah LeBlanc each had 15 apiece. Braelon Seals finished with 13 to go with Stayve Thomas Jr. scoring 10. A very talented New York City Elite 14U team were the next opponents and the battle tested God First team pulled out another victory 63-53. LeBlanc had 30 points 15 rebounds and 5 blocks, while Tramon Mark dazzled the crowd with his superior ball handling skills and finished with 20 points and 6 assists. The final pool play opponent was the Florida based V-Fit All-Stars. This game proved to have a home atmosphere and huge crowd for V-Fit, which boasted one of the best 2019 big men in the country. This intense affair came down to the wire with GFC pulling out a team win 51-50. Deuce LeBlanc recorded 18 points and 9 rebounds, Braelon Seals had 12 points and 4 steals while Tramon Mark finished with 10 points and 6 assists. The first game of the Championship bracket was against a very talented, well coached West Orange, New Jersey team. Led by a 6-4 unbelievable point guard, GFC had its hands full trailing by as many as 27 points before getting over the line 71-70. Tramon Mark led the comeback and all scorers with 22 points 5 assists and 4 steals. Isaiah LeBlanc had 17 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks, while DJ Stewart contributed 12 points (4-3’s) and Braelon Seals had 11 points. As GFC moved into the sweet 16, their first loss of the Orlando trip came at the hands of a very disciplined, well coached and talented Indiana Elite bunch. The streak of one point wins ended with a one point loss, 63-62. Tramon Mark finished with 18 points and almost hit the game winner, which rolled out, while new comer Chrisitian Wright also played well finishing with 15 points. Rise High from Pittsburgh, PA were GFC’s next opponent. This tough and athletic bunch lead most of the game before Isaiah LeBlanc caught fire finishing with 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead God First past Rise High 67-62. Tramon Mark and Christian Wright continued to ball scoring 11 apiece. The Virginia based 023 Feet Gorillas were the next opponent for GFC and the Crusaders won that battle with a very balance attack, 62-46. Isaiah LeBlanc finished with 19 points 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Tramon Mark finished with 15 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. Chrisitian Wright scored 15 points, had 7 assists and 4 steals, while Terius Mathis had his best outing of the trip with 11 points 10 rebounds and 2 big blocks. The final game of the trip proved to be a battle for the championship of the 3rd round consolation bracket. The Fredericksburg (VA) Running Rebels got out to a quick start on God First leading by as many as 20 points deep into the 4th quarter. God First showed its resiliency and heart coming all the way back to take a one point lead. The game ended with a chance to win, but the final 3 point shot bounced off of the front rim.

GFC lost 61-59, while LeBlanc had 22 points and 9 rebounds, Tramon Mark had 15 points 5 assists and 5 steals and Christian Wright had 10 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Despite the loss, the God First Crusaders finished 11th in the nation at 14 and under division 2 nationals, receiving the programs first AAU trophy and rose gold medals for each player and coach. Tremendous season for GFC after finishing top 10 in the 2020 NYBL division, a 20 game winning streak during the summer culminated with a great showing and experience in Orlando, Florida. The future is bright for GFC as their core group was young enough to play at 13 and under nationals but voted to play up in an effort to prepare for next year. Look out for God First nationally as they continue to develop and showcase high character, high IQ, student athletes who continue to excel both on and off the court.

Recent Highlight For God First Isiah LeBlanc (MSAG Candidate) Playing in "The League":


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