International rules used in this weekend's AAU 19-and-under Eastern Zone basketball tournament prohibited alley-oop passes. And that put a slight crimp in Eric Gathers' style.
But Gathers and the Hunters team of Philadelphia used the regulation that allows a team to opt for possession instead of shooting a free throw to secure a 92-87 overtime victory over the YMWCA team from Newark in yesterday's final at McDonough Gymnasium.
In the five-minute overtime, Hunters made three field goals, and five times took possession on the sideline instead of shooting foul shots.
Because they reached the championship game of the three-day, eight-team tournament, both finalists advance to the national AAU tournament in Jacksonville July 8-12.
In the consolation game between the two local entries, All Saints defeated Executive III, 96-83. For the winners, Michael Best scored 24 points, Phillip Gamble 22 and Charles Smith 16. Executive III was led by Chris Cheeks' 25 points.
Newark YMWCA jumped to a 23-15 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the half as its big men, Allah Abdelnaby (6 feet 10) and Frantz Volcy (6-9), both rising high school seniors, scored and rebounded well inside.
Hunters cut the lead to 50-46 at the half, but might have led if not for the international rules that nullified some passes inside to Gathers, who is 6-6, and 6-5 forwards Greg Kimble and Brian Shorter.
Potential alley-oop passes that were caught by Hunter's front-line players were ruled basket interference.
"Overall, I kind of disagree with some of the rules," said Gathers, who finished with a team-high 20 points and was named most valuable player. "In the first half, the international rules hurt us. But at the end of the game, they benefited us."
Philadelphia went ahead, 54-52, but the lead changed throughout the remainder of the second half.
With 1:53 remaining, Darrell Wilson, who scored 29 points, made an 18-foot jump shot to put Newark ahead, 85-83. Gathers completed a three-point play with 1:39 remaining to put Hunters ahead, 86-85, then Rick Dadika made the first of two free throws to tie the score.
Philadelphia had a final chance after Dadika's miss but Gathers had the ball knocked away.
In overtime, Derrick Gathers and Graham made field goals to put Philadelphia up by four and Newark was forced to foul.
But Hunter's coach, Haneef Shakoor, had his team take possession instead of shooting the foul shots.
"It's only our fourth game under international rules," Shakoor said. "Not having to shoot, but taking possession, that was to our advantage. Even though we have excellent foul shooters, we didn't have to take unnecessary chances."
After the game, Eric Gathers, who is headed for Southern California, finally got his chance to jump near the rim. He finished second in the slam-dunk contest to Ballou High School's Jamie Hines, a 6-0 leaper who performed a 360-degree dunk.