by Christopher Lawlor
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Once Ty Ty Washington his rhythm it was over for Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah).
Washington and his AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.) teammates were unsettled in the first half and into the third quarter but that’s when Washington carried his team on Thursday evening to a 59-54 victory over the fifth-seeded Tigers at the GEICO High School Nationals quarterfinals
In the Suncoast Credit Union Arena.
The 6 foot 3 senior guard manufactured a double-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The Dragons outscored the Utah school by 12 points (29-17) over the final 11 ½ minutes.
Kentucky-bound Nolan Hickman of Wasatch was saddled with foul trouble in the second half. The Seattle resident finished with four points and nine assists. That’s when the Dragons built a 55-44 edge with 91 second left. It was over.
Glenn Taylor Jr. had 13 points and eight rebounds in victory and junior A.J. Storr added 10 points.
Washington took over the game in second half and willed the Dragons to leads of 43-42 and 45-44 heading into the final 3 ½ minutes. Storr’s 3-pointer gave AZ Compass its first lead and then Washington nailed a 12-footer with Hickman on the bench with four personal fouls.
BYU-bound Fousseyn Traore paced the Tigers with 20 points (9 of 12 from the floor), five rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Richard “Pop” Isaacs had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Robbie Armbrester, a Houston recruit, scored 10 points. The Tigers made only 5 of 15 shots in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 37-31.
Wasatch Academy dipped to 18-7 with all losses to teams from the GEICO field. The tournament also went according to chalk through six games, meaning every higher seed won. That might change in the semifinals.
However, the pace picked up the third quarter and so did Washington.
Traore continued his scoring touch, bucketing his first eight shots before a rare miss. Ohio State-bound Roddy Gayle’s 3-pointer made it 35-25 with 4:52 left before the Dragons climbed back with a 13-3 tear to even the score at 38 through three. Wasatch also switched midway through the period to a 2-3 zone that Washington danced through.
Washington, who decommitted from Creighton in March, heated up with nine points and drilled a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to tie it up with eight minutes to play.
Isaacs ended the second quarter with a workmanlike point guard play. After gaining possession with less than 30 seconds, Isaacs milked the clock until the last seconds when he drove into the lane, kicked a pass into the left corner for Armbrester, who buried a 3-pointer at the horn and a 27-18 lead.
AZ Compass was held to a season low point total for the opening half this season.
Traore, a 6-7 muscleman from the West African county of Mali, provided Wasatch with plenty of offense in the frame, including four straight interior baskets during a 90-second span late. Traore tallied 12 points, making all six shots. Hickman, a McDonald’s All American, unleashed his superior playmaking skills with five assists and four points. Armbrester added eight points after a hot start in the first.
Washington finally get untracked after going 11 minutes without a point. He dropped in a pair of free throws and on the next possession drained a three-ball from NBA range to wind up with five points. The Dragons’ shooting woes continued in the second as they went 5 of 23 (21.7 percent) for the opening 16 minutes. AZ Compass’s defense kept them in the game. Taylor and Storr chipped in with four points apiece.
With both teams looking to run, it was the Tigers that held a comfortable 14-7 after one quarter. The Tigers were up 14-4 and benefited from AZ Prep’s frigid 2 of 13 shooting and 0 of 6 from downtown.
Hickman scored four points and Armbrester had five for the Utahns.
The opening four minutes, the hard-working established his game, scoring five points and the Tigers led 7-2. Armbrester contributed a traditional three-point play when he muscled in a shot in traffic and sank the ensuing free throw.
AZ Compass is playing the tournament minus two key parts: 6-7 DaRon Holmes and 6-8 forward Sadraque Nganga. Holmes was deemed ineligible after transferring from Montverde Academy after the cutoff date for GEICO rosters and Nganga is nursing an injury.