MIAMI -- Slam dunk contests usually get all the attention. But at the Powerade Jam Fest, held Monday night in the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami, the McDonald's All-Americans showed why the 3-point shootout is quickly becoming the most exciting event.
Peyton Siva (Franklin/Seattle), Derrick Favors (South Atlanta, Ga.), Mason Plumlee (Christ School/Winona Lake, Ind.) and Avery Bradley (Findlay Prep/Henderson, Nev.) put on a show in the dunk contest. But the electricity in the arena was at its highest when Tommy Mason-Griffin (Madison/Houston) had 13 points going into his final two racks in the championship round of the 3-point shootout.
Ryan Kelly (Ravenscroft/Raleigh, N.C.) had set the bar extremely high as the first shooter in the championship round with 20 points, including the final money ball. That came after he squeaked into the final with a score of 12 points to edge out Dominic Cheek (Saint Anthony/Jersey City, N.J.), who finished with 11 points in the first round.
Mason-Griffin had 15 points with the money ball left on his second-to-last rack, but the shot rolled around the rim and out.
The Texas gunslinger nailed three shots with only the last two-pointer left. Mason-Griffin had plenty of time to get off a good, balanced shot, but it just missed its mark. The crowd, which had been holding its breath in anticipation of a buzzer-beating tie or victory for the stocky 5-foot-11 guard, finally exhaled.
Mason-Griffin had told his McDonald's All-American teammates before the start of the finals that Kelly "has got to make 14 points to put pressure on me." The lanky Kelly scored 14 and then some, and Mason-Griffin stepped up his own game, only to come up one shot short.
"I was worried on Tommy's last rack," Kelly said. "I thought, based on what happened earlier, that with 20 points it was going to be an easy win. Tommy made a run for it, and I was fortunate to get there [the championship round] with 12 points. I had only done a 3-point contest with teammates on my high school team, but the McDonald's game is the biggest stage for it. It's a great honor to be here, and I was fortunate enough to play."
On the girls' side, Monday night was the first time eventual winner Skylar Diggins (Washington/South Bend, Ind.) had participated in a 3-point contest. Similar to the boys' competition, the championship round came down to the wire.
Diggins, the No. 3-ranked player in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100, didn't lack for confidence going into the event, but she didn't clinch the victory until she canned the third ball on her final rack to best Ta'Shauna Rodgers (King's Fork/Suffolk, Va.) with a final tally of 14 points.
Rodgers, a Georgetown recruit, put the pressure on Diggins by canning the final money ball to finish her championship round with 12 points. Rodgers had edged China Crosby (Manhattan Center/New York) and hometown favorite Erica Wheeler (Parkway Academy/Miami) to move into the final with a total of 13 points. Diggins, meanwhile, set the pace in the first round, as she looked like a female version of former NBA sharpshooter Chris Mullin with her textbook left-handed stroke. She finished with 17 points.
"I came out with the mindset to have fun, but to go in here and do my best," Diggins said. "It feels good to win. I've been working with my dad on a shooting machine, and I told myself to have fun, shoot it and see what happens."
Bradley takes home dunk title
What happened in the dunk contest was a somewhat lackluster victory for Bradley. The dunk contest lost some of its steam when Siva, the prohibitive favorite going in, didn't score enough points on his second dunk to advance to the finals.
Siva's first dunk drew the loudest ovation from the crowd during the contest, as he caught a carom that Maalik Wayns (Roman Catholic/Philadelphia) threw off the shot clock and finished the imaginative sequence with a powerful reverse dunk. He scored a perfect 90 on that dunk, but he missed his next attempt, a 360 that he caught off the bounce after he took off his shirt while the ball was in the air. Before his allotted time ran out, Siva completed a conservative dunk that netted him 78 points and 168 total.
Bradley advanced to the finals with two perfect 90s. On his first dunk, he tossed the ball from the corner, cocked it between his legs and finished the reverse with authority. On his second dunk, Bradley did his own version of the "kiss the rim" dunk that Michael Jordan made famous more than 20 years ago.
Plumlee and Favors also advanced to the finals with 178 and 174 points, respectively. Favors threw down a powerful windmill off a toss from John Henson (Sickles/Odessa, Fla.) and a between-the-legs dunk without much of a running start.
In the finals, Favors' arsenal wasn't exactly what he was looking for, and he finished with 148 points on two dunks. Bradley benefited when Plumlee tried to wow the crowd with a three-ball dunk that he could not execute on his first attempt in the championship round.
"That was crazy," Bradley said of Plumlee's unique three-ball attempt. "If he would have made that, I would have lost."
Although Plumlee scored 85 points on his second dunk to best Bradley's second attempt (81 points), the Puyallup, Wash., native was able to secure the win with two solid dunks and finished with 164 points to Plumlee's 161.
"Seeing guys like LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] had won the dunk contest, it feels real good to be on that list," Bradley said. "I've worked hard all summer for this [to become a McDonald's All-American]." Bradley's Findlay Prep team will compete in the first ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, which tips off Friday.
Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar, actually did not win the dunk contest in 1996. (Lester Earl did by jumping over a ball rack.) But like most of the night's best dunks -- especially Siva's first attempt -- who's really counting?
Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNRISE.com.