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Ball family entertains at basketball showcase; 'Ticket' delivers in the clutch

The featured performers gave basketball fans what they paid for on the first day of the Corey Graham HS/Prep Can-Am Showcase.

Seventeen-year-old LaMelo Ball and his SPIRE Institute squad dazzled a crowd of close to 400 people on Saturday night at Villa Maria College. Beforehand, his father LaVar held court in the lobby, signing autographs and posing for photographs for more than an hour.

And for an encore, Buffalo native Davonte "Big Ticket" Gaines scored the winning basket in overtime to lead Hargrave Military Academy to its 20th victory of the season.

St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt and assistants from Canisius, Niagara, Saint Peter's and Drake were among the spectators for the six-game slate featuring several top college prospects. The showcase concludes with six more games starting at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

"It was a great turnout and a great atmosphere," said Ty Parker, the Health Sciences and Corey Graham Elite AAU coach who organized the event. "We got some excitement. This is what I wanted to bring to our city for our fans and our people. Our kids see it on TV, so I wanted to bring something here for our kids and our fans. Something that we can hang our hat on and put our city on the national stage."

There was a buzz in the building for several hours before SPIRE's game at 7:30. More than 100 fans lined up to purchase apparel at a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop.

An even larger gathering formed when LaVar Ball and his middle son, LiAngelo, arrived with a 15-member production crew for their "Ball in The Family" reality show. A number of fans wore the Lakers jersey of the oldest Ball brother, Lonzo, and were eager to purchase his signature sneaker at the discounted price of $200.

"It's great," LaVar said during his autograph-signing session. "Any time we come out and all these folks come out in the cold, snow, heat, whatever, to support the Big Baller Brand and watch my boys play basketball, I love it. This is the best place in the world."

LaVar flexed his muscles while proclaiming his appreciation for Buffalo.

"It's got a nice name to it," he said with a smile. "Buff, you know. Swole."

LaVar Ball and middle son LiAngelo sign autographs during Saturday's basketball showcase at Villa Maria College. (Jonah Bronstein)

Parker said 385 tickets were sold for Saturday's game, at $40 for general admission and $100 for floor seats, of which about two dozen were filled.

LaVar sat at center court with his wife, Tina, and LiAngelo to watch LaMelo. He chuckled when the game announcer repeatedly referred to SPIRE's Peter Filipovity, wearing No. 12, as "Jim Kelly."

LaVar and Tina Ball had courtside seats to watch their son, LaMelo, play at Villa Maria College. (Jonah Bronstein)

All eyes were on LaMelo from the start of layup lines, and the 6-foot-3 point guard delivered highlight plays from start to finish. He made an early steal and combined with Michigan State commit Mark "Rocket" Watts on a give-and-go alley-oop.

A few plays later, LaMelo went behind his back and scooped in a reverse layup that energized the crowd.

Even an injury to his right index finger didn't slow LaMelo, who played the second half almost exclusively left-handed but still threw down a couple of big dunks along with throwing some slick passes.

LaMelo finished with 24 points to lead seven double-figure scorers as SPIRE remained undefeated with a 108-73 victory over Southwest Basketball Academy that ended with 10.9 seconds left on the clock after a two-handed jam from Filipovity that compelled several fans to jump out of their seats and onto the floor.

Gaines, the 6-foot-7 wing who signed with the University of Tennessee after leading Health Sciences to a Section VI championship and earning All-Western New York honors last season, shined in his homecoming game, scoring 12 of his 15 points after halftime to lead Hargrave in a 62-60 win over Thornlea Prep.

Hargrave will face Vaughan Prep at 5:30 Sunday, followed by SPIRE's game against Pine Ridge Secondary School. The other games will feature Middleburg Academy, London Basketball Academy, Rocktop Academy, GTA Prep, Beckley Prep, TRC Prep, SPIRE Post-Grad and Rise Prep.

Tickets for Sunday's game will be sold at the door, starting at 11.

Big-ticket basketball showcase brings Big Baller Brand to Buffalo

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