Kingfisher’s Cortes helps lead Team Griffin to national tournament glory
Just a few short months ago, Bijan Cortes and Trey Alexander were on opposing teams at State Fair Arena while battling it out for Class 4A boys basketball supremacy.
Just a few days ago, they were once again on the court together, but this time helping prove Oklahoma has some of the top young talent in the nation.
Team Griffin - which features Kingfisher’s Cortes and Heritage Hall’s Alexander among other stars - defeated Team Takeover 75-73 in double-overtime to win the 16-under bracket of the 2019 Peach Jam in Atlanta.
The Peach Jam is the premier tournament for the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL).
When K.J. Adams of Austin, Texas, dropped a driving shot with time expired to win the title for Team Griffin, the stands emptied to celebrate with the team.
Among those celebrating were Blake Griffin and Taylor Griffin, for whom the team is named.
“It was fun to celebrate with him because he’s normal like us and he likes to have fun,” said Cortes of the younger Griffin, who was a collegiate player of the year while at the University of Oklahoma, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and now a forward for the Detroit Pistons.
Griffin wasn’t the only high-profile person in the gym at Riverview Park Activities Center on Sunday.
The court was also lined with coaches from every major Division I college in the country.
“This whole summer there have been a bunch of scouts at our games,” said Cortes, who currently holds offers from OU and Oklahoma State, among other schools.
“But that last game, there were way more than I’ve ever seen.”
Cortes scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half of the title game as Team Griffin erased a nine-point first-half deficit against Takeover, which features players from the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., area.
He added four assists and three rebounds while going 5 of 7 from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range.
Adams, a 6-foot-6 forward who holds offers from a laundry list of schools including OU, Texas, Texas Tech, LSU and Baylor, led the team with 23 points and five rebounds.
His bucket at the end of the first overtime helped force the second OT.
Alexander, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds before fouling out.
Like Cortes, Alexander holds offers from OU and OSU. He’s also been offered by Arkansas, Texas A&M and SMU, among others.
It was Alexander who almost single-handedly handed Cortes his first high school defeat when both were freshman.
Cortes was starting on an undefeated KHS squad that was looking to repeat as the Class 4A champion in 2018.
Alexander, though, dashed those hopes as he scored 24 of his game-high 27 points in the second half to lead the Chargers to a 61-56 win.
The Chargers had their chance to repeat in 2019 -and were also undefeated. However, Cortes and the Jackets avenged the previous year’s defeat with a 59-39 victory to win its second title in three years.
Cortes was part of a defense that limited Alexander to just 12 points. Heritage Hall scored a season-low and was limited to 29 percent shooting.
Despite having one-upped each other for their respective high school teams in each of the last two years, two of the most sought-after players in the Class of 2021 don’t point it out to each other often.
“We’re pretty close, honestly,” Cortes said.
Team Griffin also features Jaxon Robison of Ada, another OU offer, J.J. White of Norman North and Daimion Collins of Atlanta, Texas, among others.
While featuring some of the best talent from Oklahoma and Texas, Team Griffin also plays against the best the rest of the country has to offer.
“It’s great for me,” said Cortes. “Everyone on the floor you play against is good so you really can’t take any plays off.
“You have to go hard all the time.”
As if the competition weren’t enough, Cortes said the collection of all-stars he has as teammates also benefits him.
“I think it does because they push me,” he said.
Team Griffin got two wins in bracket play Friday by defeating Boo Williams, which is based out of southeast Virginia, 85-77, and Vegas Elite 71-70.
Among those there to see Cortes play were his parents, Mariana and Yobany, and his sister, Jaelin.
“It was unbelievable,” said Mariana of the Peach Jam title. “It tops it right off with winning a state championship this year.”