Beekman brings home the championship belt as Continental Tires Main Event’s MVP

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Reece Beekman is mobbed by teammates Chase Coleman and Ryan Dunn after being named tournament MVP. (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Reece Beekman has grown accustomed to delivering the knockout punch, so now he has a championship belt and a gaudy chain necklace to show off his prowess.

Beekman, Virginia’s sensational junior guard, TKO’d Illinois on both ends of the floor on Sunday when he helped the Cavaliers knock off unbeaten Illinois, 70-61, to claim the Continental Tire Main Event championship in Las Vegas. For his performance, Beekman was named the Main Event’s MVP.

His trophy? A championship belt, just like Mike Tyson, plus a gold chain that would make a good conversation piece.

Beekman scored 17 points, including 10 during Virginia’s game-clinching 14-3 run over the final 3 minutes, 27 seconds. Not only did Beekman deliver on offense, he was solid on defense, leading the effort to shut down Illinois’ vaunted guard Terrence Shannon Jr., who’s projected to be an NBA first-round draft choice.

Shannon, who averaged 24 points per game coming into Sunday’s contest and scored 29 in the Illini upset of UCLA on Friday (he tied a school record with eight 3-pointers in that game), was handcuffed by Beekman, one of the best defensive players in America. Shannon scored 9 points and turned the ball over six times before fouling out.

“We locked down on defense, and we took the job seriously and personal,” Beekman said about UVA’s work on that end of the floor down the stretch. “That’s just me and my team. We work on our defensive sides every day going against each other.

“So just going against the best every day prepares me for that, and just deep down, knowing that at the end of the day, that’s my matchup and I need to win that,” said Beekman, who had three steals. “Just coming out with that mentality is good for the team as a whole, and for myself.”

Beekman, who also posted a double-double with 10 points, 10 assists in the upset win over No. 5 Baylor, knew he had to keep Shannon under control in order for Virginia to beat Illinois. There was a little jawing back-and-forth between the two late in the game, but Beekman allowed his defense to speak for itself.

“We’ve been through these moments before, and sometimes last year we just didn’t end on the right foot,” the MVP said. “We were down and we just flipped the script.”