Prep Championship - Day 1 Recap
Opening Round Game of the Day
#7 Nia Prep (NJ) 86 #10 Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 89
In the second of Tuesday’s opening round games, 10th-seeded and 2010 National Runner-Up Northfield Mount Hermon would match up with seventh-seeded Alif Muhammad Nia School in a contest featuring two teams with equally effective, but greatly contrasting styles. With Nia Prep using its elite athleticism to get out and score the ball in transition early behind the likes of Kelvin Amayo and Cincinnati-commit Shaquille Jones, NMH would respond with the elite shot-making of Seton Hall-bound point guard Aaron Cosby (six threes, 24 first half points), who would light up the scoreboard and keep his team close with a barrage of three-point bombs from all over the floor. Silky smooth junior Darrick Wood would hit a three to give Nia a three-point lead, at 20-17, with 10 minutes remaining in the half, before a two-hand dunk in transition from Dartmouth-recruit John Golden and a bucket from Yale-commit Armani Cotton a few possessions later would propel NMH in front and give the Hoggers a seven-point advantage, at 31-24, with under seven minutes to play. Cosby would go wild in the closing minutes of the first half, hitting a variety of catch-and-shoot jumpers and deep threes off high ball-screens to ignite a 10-0 run and give NMH a 46-36 lead heading into the break.
NMH would pick up right where it left off early in the second half, beating Nia at its own game with a series of transition baskets to blow the game open and eventually take a 17-point lead on a lay-up by Golden, at 62-45, with under 15 minutes remaining in the game. Nia would respond by forcing a series of turnovers over the next several minutes and fight to cut the lead to nine on a transition lay-up by Wood, at 70-61, with just over eight minutes remaining. Nia would shrink the lead to four, at 76-72, on a run-out bucket from high-riser Deon Maddox, but NMH would respond with a series of inside hoops from Evan Cummins and Dartmouth-commit Jvonte Brooks to fend off a late offensive surge from Amayo and, after a missed Jones three at the final buzzer, eventually hang on for an 89-86, tuck-and-run victory.
Cosby led all scorers with 34 points, with Brooks adding 14, Cotton 12, and Golden and Ethan O’Day finishing with 11 an 10 respectively to round out five NMH players in double-figures. Woods finished with 21 to lead Nia, to go along with 18 from Amayo (16 after halftime) and 13 apiece from Thomas and David Joseph.
Quarterfinal Game of the Day
#3 Notre Dame Prep (MA) 87 #6 Tilton (NH) 85
In an all New-England match-up showcasing some of the region’s elite, high-major prospects, Friday’s third quarterfinal would feature third-seeded Notre Dame Prep against freshly crowned NEPSAC Class AA champion Tilton in what turned out to be an elite level contest that went down to the final possession. With the two team’s trading baskets in a frantic, up-and-down affair, freshman Wayne Selden would give Tilton a an early three-point cushion, at 19-16, with a trio of contested three-pointers in front of the likes of Ricardo Ledo, Todd Mayo, and Myles Davis. Notre Dame would answer back with three-pointers from Ledo and Davis and a series of punishing finishes inside from Pittsburgh-commit and McDonald’s All-America Khem Birch, before Mayo would bury a pull-up three in transition to give Prep a four-point lead, at 36-32, with just under eight minutes remaining in the half. Both clubs would continue a rapid pace of big-time shot-making from all over the floor, and, after another Ledo three from the left wing to give Notre Dame a two-point lead, at 46-44, Tilton would respond with free-throws from Selden and a run-out bucket from Georges Niang to take a four point lead, at 50-46, heading into the break.
Ledo would open the second half on fire, knocking down three straight triples from NBA range to put Notre Dame up seven, at 61-54, with less than four minutes gone in the half. Selden would answer with a monster dunk in transition, after which he drew a technical foul for taunting, that would spark a mini Tilton run and pull the Rams back within one, at 63-62, before Notre Dame would respond with a spurt of its own and take an eight-point lead, at 70-62, on a thunderous, tomahawk dunk from Fordham-commit Devon McMillan off a steal in transition. Niang would flat-out take over down the stretch and go on a personal, 13-point scoring run, including a trio of threes, to propel Tilton in front by two, at 85-83, with under a minute remaining. Mayo would drop in a high-arcing floater off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 85 with 30 seconds to play, and, after Ledo converted a pair of free-throws to give Notre Dame an 87-85 lead, Tilton would come up short on multiple, point-blank looks at the rim before the final buzzer and allow Prep to hang on for a thrilling, two-point victory.
Ledo finished with a game-high 31 points, including a sensation 20-point second half, to lead Notre Dame, along with 25 from Mayo and 14 from Birch (scoreless in second half). Niang, who single-handedly led Tilton to the brink of victory with a dominating, 13-point scoring outburst down the stretch, led Tilton with 31 points of his own, followed by Selden with 22 (only four after halftime) and Goodluck Okonoboh with 14.
Kiwi Gardner (Westwind)- After an outstanding performance in the National Prep Showcase in November when he distinguished himself as one of the elite playmaking guards at the event, the five-foot-seven guard returned to the Northeast and the campus of Albertus Magnus College with his dynamic end-to-end speed and unique creativity off the bounce. A menace defensively with the quickness to turn and disrupt opposing ball-handlers for 94 feet, Gardner (22 points vs. New Hampton; 29 vs. Hargrave) is a constant presence on both ends who can dictate pace, find people off the dribble for easy buckets, and score the ball himself with a reliable stroke from the perimeter.
John Green (Westwind)- Another player who impressed for Westwind in its appearance in the National Prep Showcase earlier in the season, the UC-Santa Barbara-commit shook off a slow start to assert himself offensively in the second half with multiple perimeter jumpers and a variety of athletic finishes at the rim. A confident presence with a versatile inside-outside skill-set at six-foot-six, the attacking play of Green (18 points vs. New Hampton; 11 vs. Hargrave), as well as Gardner, was a primary reason why Westwind was able to erase a 12-point halftime deficit on Tuesday against New Hampton and escape with a 75-69 victory.
Jordan Laguerre (New Hampton)- A big-time athlete who rebounds the ball extremely well from the guard spot at both ends, the future UMass Minuteman brings a toughness and fierce will to compete that is matched by few players in the region. With a creative handle and uncanny ability to shake his defender with a variety of front and behind-the-back switch moves off the bounce, Laguerre (12 points) has a college ready skill-set that should make him an instant tough cover next year for head Coach Derek Kellogg in the Atlantic 10.
Oliver Hanlan (New Hampton)- A strong, sturdy athlete with a wide frame at six-foot-two, Hanlan (13 points) impressed with a smooth, attacking feel off the bounce and the ability to out-physical smaller defenders on his way to the rim. With a tight, creative handle and terrific poise as a steady facilitator, he can knock down open shots from three and consistently draws two at the second level to locate open shooters and thread the ball to left-alone bigs for dunks in the paint.
Nick Paulos (New Hampton)- With current UNC-Greensboro assistant coach and New Hampton alum Wes Miller on hand watching, the future Spartan showed off his high value as an elite three-point shooter capable of putting up big numbers in a hurry from behind the arc. With great size and length at six-foot-seven, Paulos (13 points, three threes) is able to rise up over closing defenders for clean, catch-and-shoot looks and shows flashes of being able to put the ball on the floor with either hand to create space for a balanced mid-range pull-up.
Aaron Cosby (Northfield Mount Hermon)- As explosive a volume shooter as there is in New England, the Seton Hall-commit went crazy from behind the arc in the first half of NMH’s win over Nia Prep, knocking down six threes in the opening 20 minutes en route to 24 points before the break. While more accurately characterized as a shooter at this point than he is a pure scorer, Cosby (game-high 34 points vs. Nia; 17 vs. Brewster) gives head coach Kevin Willard a player that can score the ball away from the basket in the most physical league in the country and someone with the highly-coveted attribute of wanting to take and make big shots when the lights are bright.
Darrick Wood (Nia Prep)- A versatile, smooth-scoring wing at six-foot-four with an explosive first burst and deceptive bounce, Wood scored the ball in a variety of ways in Friday’s opening round match-up with NMH, knifing to the rim for a series of acrobatic scores in traffic and knocking down multiple perimeter jumpers with a pure stroke from three. Always under control, Wood (21 points) could greatly benefit from some added muscle to his long, but extremely thin, frame, but possesses natural instincts for changing pace in tight space and being able to create his own shot from several locations on the floor.
Kelvin Amayo (Nia Prep)- An absolute monster going downhill with the ball in his hands, the six-foot-five wing bounced back from a non-existent first half in Friday’s hard-fought loss to NMH with 16 points in the final 20 minutes on a series of tough, bullying drives to the basket. While still reluctant, for the most part, to shoot the ball from three, Amayo mixes a creative blend of crossover combinations to shake retreating defenders and bulldoze his way into the paint where he can score through contact at and above the rim with deceptive bounce and devastating strength.
Andre Drummond (St. Thomas More)- Fully engaged and playing with noticeable aggression on both ends of the floor, the six-foot-ten, consensus top-ranked big in the national class of 2012 wowed the mid-afternoon crowd with multiple dunks over people in traffic and emphatic blocked shots that, if nothing else, served as warning for Princeton Day guards to think twice before taking the ball into the lane with any real ambition of getting it up on the rim. While he consistently fails to receive the ball on the block with his defender positioned helplessly on his back, Drummond (15 points) pursued the ball on the offensive glass, chased down lose balls in traffic, and, on the few occasions he caught the ball from the perimeter in the paint, showed his potential as a dominant low-post scorer by simply rising and finishing with two hands well above the rim.
Damion Lee (St. Thomas More)- Few players in the region can match Lee’s unique combination of tenacity and feel as one of the elite swingman still available in the Northeast. With a drastically improved stroke from three, he is now a consistent threat to knock own open looks from the perimeter, attacks closeouts with a devastating first burst, and is a committed defender with the athleticism to defend both smaller point guards and long, offensive-minded wings. Above all, Lee flat-out plays as hard, if not harder, than anyone in New England, and, with a skill-set that is rapidly catching up to his blue-chip physical ability, he will be a prized get for the program fortunate enough to land his services this spring.
Adam Jones (St. Thomas More)- A long, athletic presence in-and-around the paint, the Fairfield-commit has a knack for the ball near the basket and uses his quick leaping ability to reek havoc on the offensive glass and convert second-chance opportunities in traffic. A developing perimeter shooter with range to be respected out to the line, Jones has the potential to be a versatile weapon on both ends of the floor for head coach Ed Cooley as Fairfield continues to add pieces in its ascent towards the top of the MAAC.
P.J. Hairston (Hargrave Military)- A long-range sniper with a college-ready body, the future North Carolina Tarheel hunts his shot off dribble penetration and staggered screen action in the half-court with a pure, textbook release that stays fluid out to 25 feet. While he does almost the entirety of his damage from either behind the line or with explosive finishes in transition, Hairston (36 points, seven threes) shows signs of being a capable mid-range shooter when he seldom decides to use a jab, pump-and-go move to get free for a less flashy 15-foot jumper at the second level.
Dez Wells (Hargrave Military)- As electrifying a finisher as there is in this year’s National Prep Championship, the future Xavier Musketeer wasted no time in showcasing his sensational leaping ability in Friday’s quarterfinal victory over Westwind, as the six-foot-five wing took the opening tip just outside the arc, took one momentum dribble towards the rim, and stuffed a two-hand dunk that quickly let everyone in the gym know he was in attack mode from the start. While far from a knock-down perimeter threat, Wells (25 points) can occasionally hit an open three and forces defenders to honor him just enough from behind the arc so that he can use his creative handle and bullish strength to carve his way to the rim for tough scores though contact.
C.J. Barksdale (Hargrave Military)- A lean, highly-active big at six-foot-eight, the Virginia Tech-commit runs rim to rim with effortless fluidity in transition, gets seals for quick post-ups that lead to jump-hooks over either shoulder, and attacks the offensive glass for second-chance dunks and tip-ins over the backs of defenders struggling to block him out. Sometimes overshadowed by the dominating play of Hargrave’s plethora of high-major guards, Barksdale (10 points) is a promising young prospect poised for a bright future in the ACC with his natural athleticism, soft hands, and ability to catch-and-finish at full pace in traffic.
Wayne Selden (Tilton)- The bigger the stage, the bigger Selden’s game of late, as he followed a scintillating performance in Tilton’s victory over St. Mark’s in the NEPSAC Class AA title game on Sunday with a furious start to Friday’s quarterfinal match-up with Notre Dame, hitting his first four attempts from behind the arc and attacking close-outs with conviction en route to 18 first half points. Just a freshman, Selden (22 points) features a college-ready body with strength and athleticism to get to the rim through contact off the bounce, and, when drawing two in traffic, he shows ability to identify the open man and thread the ball on a dime with flare for easy scores.
Georges Niang (Tilton)- Once again, Niang was a masterful display of efficiency in Tilton’s hard-fought loss to Notre Dame on Friday, scoring 13 straight points for his team down the stretch to help the Rams charge back and assume the lead with under a minute to play. The six-foot-seven, face-up forward hit big shot after big shot and consistently used a quick-spin to the baseline to lose his defender and finish with a smooth reverse lay-up with either hand. All rankings aside, Niang continues to put up outlandish numbers with astounding efficiency against players receiving interest from the highest levels of college basketball, and, if he can continue this type of production throughout the spring and summer, one has to think it’s only a matter of time before some high-major programs begin to take notice of his ability to flat out get it done against elite competition on the biggest of stages.
Ricardo Ledo (Notre Dame)- The mid-season transfer from South Kent looked fully comfortable as part of Notre Dame’s loaded line-up of blue-chip prospects in Friday’s match-up with Tilton, as he knocked down open threes in rhythm with a quick, feathery stroke, scored the ball with ease in transition, and showcased terrific vision as a willing, creative playmaker off the dribble. On a big stage against elite competition, Ledo (game-high 31 points) seems at ease assuming the role of the best all-round player on the floor, balancing opportunities as a scorer and facilitator with a natural feel for making the simple, more difficult, and sensational plays seem just the same: easy.
Todd Mayo (Notre Dame)- One of the elite offensive players still available in the national class of 2011, the six-foot-three wing showed his value as a streaky scorer capable of putting up big numbers in a hurry with a huge second half in Friday’s win over Tilton, converting on a series of perimeter jumpers and tough drives to the hoop en route to 15 points after the break. An above-average athlete with deceptive bounce he’ll use to score above the rim in transition, Mayo (25 points) is a classic straight line scorer who attacks with a sudden burst from the wing and isn’t satisfied until he does what he does best: finish.
Marcus Kennedy (Brewster)- A highly-active space-eater at six-foot nine with soft hands and agile feet, the Villanova-bound big is a load to deal with on the interior with his relentless pursuit of the ball and willingness to absorb contact on his way to the rim. Kennedy (13 points) rebounded the ball extremely well on both ends in Brewster’s quarterfinal win over NMH on Friday, pursuing the ball in traffic and winning 50-50 battles to convert multiple second chance opportunities with authority. When catching the ball on the low block, he is an effective passer out of quick double teams and, when left alone to work, has a variety of back-to-the-basket moves from which to choose to score the ball over an outstretched hand.
Elijah Carter (Brewster)- Joining Mayo as a highly-coveted perimeter prospect receiving a considerable amount of high-major interest due to his ability to score and handle the basketball, the six-foot-two combo guard was filling it up in high volume in the first half against NMH on Friday, hitting from well beyond the arc and using a crafty euro-move to glide past defenders in transition and score at the rim. While he spends most of his time running alongside Brewster point guard Naadir Tharpe, Carter (14 points) has a solid handle and could serve as an effective facilitator at the next level capable of pushing pace in transition, initiating half-court offense, and knocking down open looks off reversal.
#8 New Hampton (NH) 69 #9 Westwind Prep (AZ) 75
#7 Nia Prep (NJ) 86 #10 Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 89
#4 St. Thomas More (CT) 89 #5 Princeton Day Academy (MD) 52
#1 Hargrave Military Academy (VA) 109 #9 Westwind Prep (AZ) 88
#3 Notre Dame Prep (MA) 87 #6 Tilton School (NH) 85
#2 Brewster Academy (NH) 65 #10 Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 59