Elite Interscholastic Basketball Conference goes off without hitch in inaugural season

The EIBC Finals Championship game between Red Rock Academy and Canyon International Academy drew large crowds eager to watch talented basketball prospects. (Photo by Noah Maltzman/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Red Rock Academy narrowly defeated Canyon International Academy in the Elite Interscholastic Basketball Conference Finals last month at The PHHacility.

But the inaugural title game did play out like the average hoops game.

Founded in August of last year by Barry Jones, the EIBC has been a massive success in its first season with a unique set of rules.

Teams play to a target score. The clock stops at the three-minute mark in the fourth quarter, or the first dead ball after. At this point, the target score becomes plus seven points from the leading team’s total. This way, every game ends with a game-winning basket, bringing added excitement to the final possessions.

“I thought it went really well, it was well organized and put together,” said assistant Red Rock Academy coach Rashard McGill. “There were a lot of descriptions and details for coaches and there was follow through so that nobody would be confused.”

Jones created the EIBC with a clear mission in mind. His goal was to create a platform for high school athletes, ages 15-plus, within the U.S. and Canada, to compete and receive a level of exposure that is worthy of their talent. And with elite prep basketball schools popping up seemingly everywhere over the past decade, changing the sports landscape in Arizona and across the country, the teams need elite tournaments to showcase their players.

The EIBC was designed to stand out from other comparable leagues. What’s so unique about the EIBC is its strong social media presence and the fact that it advertises the successes of the players, regardless of their other affiliations.

“We promote everything the kids do, whether it’s in our league or in a showcase tournament, or even another league that might be a competitor, we are still going to promote the kids’ successes, which is unique in its way,” said Jones, the league’s president.

Another distinctive aspect of the EIBC is the fact that every team is scheduled to face off with every other team. This is special in that other leagues are organized in ways that limit the number of different opponents, thus limiting the different playing styles that the teams get to witness.

The EIBC successfully organized five events from October to March. The first of these was the EIBC Preseason Kickoff which took place in Phoenix. This was followed by EIBC Sessions I, II, and III, taking place in Denver, New Orleans, and Albuquerque, before the tournament culminated at The PHHacility, the all-inclusive basketball facility in the Valley.

“We’ve got great things coming next year, including a new deal with a multimedia company which is going to take visibility and exposure to another level,” Jones said. “Next year we will have eight to twelve stops as well as a game at the Toyota Center in November.”

Despite being the inaugural season for the EIBC, there were large crowds on hand during the EIBC Finals to watch talented basketball prospects going head to head. This was particularly the case in the semifinal round, which featured a packed house to watch local favorites PHH Prep.

The atmosphere was electric and the games were highly competitive. Some notable attendees included Dillon Brooks of the Houston Rockets and player development coach Phil Beckner.

Ultimately, the EIBC Finals Championship on March 2 was won by Red Rock Academy, which was dominant in its performance. Red Rock finished the EIBC season with a sterling record of 14-0.

Red Rock, the top-seeded team in the bracket, faced a tremendous amount of pressure. Coach Derek Thomas, who has been coaching for more than 30 years, understood the circumstances surrounding his team’s path to victory.

“We came with a mission. We knew everything was stacked against us and that everyone wanted us to lose and yet we stuck together,” Thomas said, “The first couple of nights we set the tone of what we were doing and what it was going to take to beat us. We certainly got the best effort out of each opponent we faced.”

Red Rock escaped in a 98-92 victory against Canyon International, paced by Jevon Yapi, a 6-foot-1 point guard who currently has an offer from High Point University. Yapi amassed 24 points and nine assists in the championship, leading his team to victory as well as being named the Finals MVP.

The championship featured future Mountain West Conference foes and four-star commits Jovan Milicevic and Taj DeGourville. Milicevic is committed to play for the New Mexico Lobos next season and DeGourville is committed to play for the San Diego State Aztecs, two programs that have had great success in recent years.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Noah Maltzman expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism with a related area of popular music. Maltzman has interned at 94.1 WIP, the largest sports radio station in Philadelphia.