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Alford shines, but team loses in TBT tourney

Bryce Alford, right, follows through on a shot during his team’s loss Thursday in The Basketball Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. (Ben Solomon/The Basketball Tournament)

Bryce Alford knew his role.

Asked last week by the Journal what that was when playing for The Money Team in this week’s $1 million, winner-take-all TBT (The Basketball Tournament) in Columbus, Ohio, the La Cueva High and UCLA graduate didn’t hesitate.

“Stay behind the 3-point line and make shots,” said Alford, New Mexico’s single-season high school scoring record holder and UCLA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers in a career.

The 25-year-old played his role on Thursday, scoring a team-high 20 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting in 23 minutes on the court, but it wasn’t enough. The heavily favored The Money Team, the No. 7 seed, blew a huge lead, losing 102-99 to No. 23 Herd That in the single-elimination TBT.

The Money Team, with several former college stars and even some former NBA players, erupted for 40 points in the first quarter on Thursday and led by as many as 18 points over a team of mostly Marshall University basketball players who have been practicing for weeks. The Money Team had only recently started working together.

Ot Elmore, a former Herd player who has become a TBT favorite as the everyman of the tournament due to his receding hairline and pudgy body, had this to say of The Money Team’s roster of stars: “Those guys play in the NBA. I play at the Y.”

TBT uses the Elam Ending format to finish games. With it, at the first stoppage of play with under four minutes remaining in the game (usually the final media timeout of a game), the clock goes away and a target score of eight points higher than the leading team’s score is set. From that point, it becomes first team to the target score wins, always ensuring a game being won by a made basket and eliminating stall ball and a lengthy series of fouls to stop the clock.

Thursday, The Money Team got to the Elam Ending with a comfortable 93-84 lead — setting the target score at 101, meaning they needed eight points to the 17 needed by Herd That.

The Money Team went cold, if not a little conservative, and Alford was on the bench most of the Herd’s comeback before Ryan Luther’s game-winner closed out a furious 18-6 end-of-game for the win.

Herd That got 32 points from Chris Cokley and 30 off the bench from Jacory Williams to move on to the quarterfinals.

After the game, Alford posted on his Twitter account: “Big thank you to @TMT_Basketball for the opportunity to play. Tough L today, but had a blast playing in the @thetournament” and later, “Man it felt good being back on the court! Nothing like the feeling of lacing em up and competing!”

JOURNAL JINX? The Journal last week profiled two Albuquerque connections in TBT — Alford and Albuquerque Academy graduate and coach of the Eberlein Drive team, Cody Toppert. Both teams were among the favorites, receiving byes into the round of 16 of the the 24-team field with The Money Team receiving the No. 7 seed and Eberlein Drive the No. 5 seed.

Alford’s team was one-and-done in the tournament but at least got to play. On Sunday, Eberlein Drive was disqualified from the tournament when a player on the team tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the entire team to have to leave the quarantined bubble the tournament is being played in.

FRIDAY: There is one more New Mexico connection in TBT, though. Marlon Johnson, the 6-foot-10 former New Mexico Highlands center and his Brotherly Love team, composed mostly of Philadelphia-based players, though Johnson is from Chicago, take on the Golden Eagles, a team primarily of former Marquette players.

That game is Friday at noon on ESPN.

The TBT championship game is July 14 on ESPN.

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