Prior to Tuesday's adidas Super 64 17U Gold Division championship game, Dallas Mustangs Blue coach Gerald Booker gave each of his players an unwanted gift.
The gift was a picture of the Indiana Elite, the team that kept the Mustangs from winning last year's 15U championship. The Mustangs fell to the Elite in last year's final, and that picture pulled out a gamut of emotions for Booker's players.
The Mustangs used that picture as motivation on Tuesday, and the group of 2013s left the city of Las Vegas as a champion, defeating the Oakland Rebels Black, 69-68, in overtime at Rancho High School. The Mustangs used a last-second bucket by Soma Edo to not only get the win but also exorcise last year's demons.
"I sent that picture to all my guys for a reason. I wanted them to go down memory lane and remember how that felt," Booker said. "We didn't finish the job last year, and we felt like we gave it away. They didn't want to ever feel like that again, and they refused to lose [Tuesday]."
The Mustangs actually trailed by double digits at one point of the game but managed to rally in the second half. The last play of the game, in addition to a strong overall performance, earned Edo the MVP award for the tournament. Edo connected on a flush with time running out after Shirmane Thomas penetrated to the lane and found him inside.
The Mustangs then celebrated, as they earned one of three Vegas tournament championships won by a Dallas-area team. The Texas Assault won the 17U championship Tuesday, and on Monday, Deron Williams Elite captured the 17U Platinum Division title of the Las Vegas Fab 48.
"How do we feel right now?" Booker said. "We're on top of the world right now."
What made the victory even more impressive was that the Mustangs played without two of their top players in Leyton Hammonds, who was nursing an injury suffered in the tournament, and Kendal Harris, who is still recovering from a knee injury months back. The team, however, relied on players like Edo, Thomas, Marcus Foster and Nathan Hawkins to handle business and take home a well-earned championship. The Mustangs finished the tournament with three overtime wins.
In the month of July, the Mustangs have competed in four tournaments. Of those four, they made four championship appearances and won three titles. Their only loss was in the Great American Shoot-Out to the Texas Assault -- which won the adidas Super 64 17U title Tuesday night.
The Mustangs, however, will have no time to rest up, as they open play at the Final Shootout Wednesday afternoon in the greater Houston area.