Quarterfinal 2 (boys):
Findlay Prep (NV) vs La Lumiere (IN)

By Christopher Lawlor

NEW YORK – It was all business for fourth-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) Thursday.

“We’re a senior loaded team,” said Findlay’s confident coach Paul Washington Sr. “Our seniors simply did not want to go home.”

Meanwhile La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) would not go down without a fight but it was a forgettable third-quarter showing that ultimately decided the game.

“We picked the wrong day to go 0 for 12 from three-point range,” Lakers first-year coach Patrick Holmes said.

Findlay used a 48-29 second-half scoring spree to overcome the Lakers, 66-54, in the GEICO High School Nationals quarterfinals at Christ the King High School’s Father John Savage Memorial Gymnasium.

After going 5-1 in the last two GEICO Nationals, the reigning champion La Lumiere finally met their match. In 2016, the Lakers (23-4) lost in the championship game on a tip-in at the buzzer and last year coasted to the title.

It was apparent from the opening tip that La Lumiere could not match Findlay point-for-point or overall athleticism but plucky play from the backcourt, hustle on the floor and super junior Isaiah Stewart kept them in contention.

Their dream of a repeat died suddenly in the third. For Findlay it was a matter of time before they wore down Holmes’ club.

The Pilots (32-4) advance to the semifinals on Friday against top-seeded Montverde (Fla.) Academy or eighth-seeded Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) at 5 p.m. EDT on ESPN2.

The game featured the defending champions and a program from Nevada that won it three times in the first four years of the event’s existence. Bol Bol, Findlay’s monster man, was a game-time decision (Achilles tendon injury). He admitted two days earlier while at the McDonald’s All-American Game—which he sat out—that his status was touch-and-go but the South Sudanese post started Thursday.

The Oregon-bound Bol finished with four points on 2 of 10 shooting but cleared 11 rebounds. His lack of play showed in the opening minutes.

“Bol was a little rusty but it was our job to pick him up,” said teammate Reggie Chaney, who is an Arkansas signee on a senior-laden Findlay squad.

Findlay regrouped at halftime and stormed to a 30-28—its first lead of the afternoon. Chaney’s back-to-back baskets, including a slam off a missed shots capped the quick 12-3 burst in the opening 4:13 of the second half.

After that Findlay never trailed again.

Kyler Edwards (23 points) swished a long 3-pointer from the corner and it was 37-30 with two minutes left in the third. Findlay dropped another weapon in the in the final 75 second of the period as 7-3 rail Connor Vanover (eight points), who did not score in three minutes of action in the first half, knocked down consecutive three balls and Nathan Mensah twisting drive beat the third-quarter buzzer to give the Pilots a commanding 45-33 edge.

“I finally found my rhythm in the third quarter,” Edwards said.

Said Washington: “We run plays for Connor’s three-point shots. I ask him to be patience and he’s done a great job and hit two big 3s today in the third.”

Findlay’s 27-8 surge in the third not only accounted for more points they scored in the first half but burst La Lumiere’s bubble. Findlay made 10 of 17 shots (58.8%) compared to 3 of 10 and six turnovers for the Lakers.

“This is a tough gym to play in,” Washington said. “I reminded our guys at halftime of our game goals and that our strength is going inside.”

The Lakers played like a team that wanted it more in the opening half. They settled for a seven-point advantage, 25-18. It was senior Paxson Wojcik’s off-balance, 17-footer at the buzzer that brought his teammates racing onto the floor and into the dressing room for intermission.

Edwards topped the Pilots with eight points and Chaney had six at the break. Findlay’s frigid 8 of 29 shooting (27.6%) with Bol missing all seven shots from the field.

Stewart had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers and Campbell added five and four assists. The Lakers were up 20-19 in the rebounding battle, scoring 20 of 25 points in the paint.

Stewart, the No. 13-rated player by ESPN in the junior class, wound up with 23 points (11 of 19 accuracy from the floor) and a game-high 14 rebounds. The Rochester, N.Y. native still has a year remaining and is considered a shoo-in for the 2018 McDonald’s Game.

“Coming here this year was great for my game; I’m looking forward to next year already,” Stewart said.

“They were doubled Isaiah and he did a great job overcoming it,” Holmes said.

Senior Tyger Campbell, the courageous point guard headed to UCLA in the fall, had 10 points, six assists and four steals, playing steady in his final prep game.

“It’s a great experience coming to Christ the King every year. We train each day to make it here,” Campbell said.

The Pilots had a chance to slice the deficit to four points by the break but a long rebound with 3 seconds left in the half, an outlet pass to Wojcik and a left-handed heave from the left wing.

Findlay pecked away in the second quarter and reduced it to 17-12 at 3:39. Stewart answered a minute later with a rim-rattling dunk off a perfectly executed inbounds lob to the rim and a 19-14 lead.

The Lakers came out fighting and carried a 14-6 lead into the second quarter. Things got heated late in the first following a La Lumiere slam-dunk as the bench was assessed a technical foul for chirping too loud.

“Down 14-6 is nothing new to us,” Washington added. “If you are familiar with our schedule we’ve been in these situations before; it was just another quarter for us.”

Quarterfinal 1 (boys):
University School (FL) vs Shadown Mountain (AZ)

By Christopher Lawlor

NEW YORK – It figures the most talented player in the junior class had the last say Thursday afternoon.

Vernon Carey Jr., the 6 feet 10 man-child had rocked the rim with 1 minute, 14 seconds left and nothing to prove. Carey attacked the iron with a vengeance and hung on for dear life.

For his efforts: a technical foul.

So what because third-seeded University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) advanced and in a one-and-done event to play another day. Carey finished with 20 points and ripped seven rebounds as the Sharks downed sixth-seeded Shadow Mountain (Phoenix), 75-63, in the GEICO High School Nationals quarterfinals at Christ the King High School’s Father John Savage Memorial Gymnasium.

The Sharks (34-1) will play fourth-seeded No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) or No. 7 Garfield (Seattle) Friday at 3 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. It was the second straight year that Shadow Mountain dropped out of the GEICO Nationals in the first round. The Matadors dipped to 25-2 overall and concluded the campaign with a fourth state title in five years.

Carey showed why he is one of the nation’s most recruited pivots making 9 of 10 shots and dishing out three assists from the high post and wing. The Sharks made 50% of their shots (29 of 58) and outscored their opponents, 22-15, on the break and 18-9 on second chances.

Shadow Mountain, which is build on pressure defense and four guards, netted 21 points off turnovers but did not have the muscle to stay with Carey’s interior game.

Jovan Blacksher tossed in 20 points in the loss, sinking 8 of 16 shots, and teammate Immanuel Allen had 19 points and six rebounds.

Both teams won state championship nearly a month ago but the lack of play was not evident in the early going.

And heading into the fourth quarter, the packed gym agreed. University led 50-46 as New Mexico-bound Drue Drinnon (nine points, six assists) pumped in four straight free throws. The Matadors tied the game at 44 and took their first lead at 43-42 with 3:45 left in the third when Blacksher wowed the building with a yo-yo dribble drive and completed the traditional three-point play.

Carey, the No. 2 prospect in the ESPN 60 rankings for the Class of 2019, gave his team a 34-30 halftime score, dropping in a turnaround jumper with 3 seconds left. He scored 11 points and grabbed three boards as the Sharks connected on 15 of 29 shots (46.7%).

Allen’s 11 points and Blacksher’s six paced Shadow Mountain, which had only six steals and shot 12 of 28 (38.5%) in the opening half.

University’s height advantage provided a 19-11 edge on the boards.

Prior to that Shadow Mountain fought back from 13-down, forging a tie at 30 on a Jalen Williams basket with 68 seconds to go.

Just when the Matadors appeared headed for long, dismal day, their defense awoke and so did the offense. Trailing by 13 points early in the second quarter, the Arizonans chipped away with a quick 13-6 burst capped by Immanuel Allen’s thunderous dunk in traffic. University took a 26-13 lead in the second but Shadow Mountain’s signature pressure defense enabled the comeback.

The smaller Matadors triggered their run with quick guards attacking the rim and out-hustling the Sharks on the offensive glass.

The Florida Class 5A state champions closed the opening eight minutes with an 8-2 spree for a 20-11 edge. There were 13 total turnovers but the Sharks were up 10-4 in fast-break points.

Carey gave the New York hoop junkies a taste of his up-and-down-the-court game midway through the first quarter with a crowd-pleasing, one-handed jam from the left wing and a 12-9 lead.

As customary, the Matadors were pressing from the opening tap. The constant motion of swirling arms forced traps and the points followed. Shadow Mountain entered the game averaging nearly 20 steals per game. They finished with only nine for the game.

Junior guard Jaelen House, who verballed to Arizona State, had a rough day from the floor going 2 of 13 from the floor and misfiring on all seven shots from three-point land but wound up with 12 points and three rebounds.

The Matadors shot only 22 of 57 for 38.6%.

Sophomore forward Scottie Barnes, a major recruit, totaled a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He added a slam dunk in the fourth quarter when University pulled away an 8-0 run after leading 50-46 after three.