Prep Championship Finals Set
#4 St. Thomas More (CT) 90 #1 Hargrave Military Academy (VA) 76
In Wednesday’s first seminal, a fourth-seeded St. Thomas More team coming off a convincing victory over Princeton Day Academy on Tuesday would take on top-seeded Hargrave and its loaded group of high-major talent. With future North Carolina Tarheel P.J. Hairston knocking down a pair of deep, NBA-range threes early and fellow ACC-commit C.J. Barksdale (Virginia Tech) getting loose for buckets inside, St. Thomas More would stay close behind the interior play of six-foot-ten center Andre Drummond and perimeter shooting of recent St. Anselm’s-commit Roy Mabrey. Drummond would find Mabrey on a no-look pass out of a double-team for a lay-up to give St. Thomas More a five-point lead, at 29-24, with over six minutes to play in the half, before Hairston (11 first-half points) would respond with his third three of the half a few possessions later to keep Hargrave within a deuce. Uncommitted, six-foot-six swingman Damion Lee would go on a mini-tear in the closing minutes of the half, converting a series of tough drives to the hoop through contact to eventually give St. Thomas More a seven-point cushion, at 37-33, heading into the break.
St. Thomas More would quickly extend the lead to double-figures in the opening minutes of the second half, with lead guard Indiana Faithful finding Mabrey for a three from the left corner to push the spread to 10, at 44-34, with less than three minutes gone in the half. With Hargrave’s plethora of perimeter scorers struggling to get free for clean looks, Barksdale would fight to keep his team within striking distance with a series of tough buckets inside, but a transition dunk from Drummond off a lob from Mabrey would keep the St. Thomas More lead at nine, at 58-49, with 11:30 left to play. With Drummond on the bench with four fouls, a pair of free-throws from Lee would stretch the St. Thomas More cushion to 11, at 71-60, with under seven minutes remaining, before Lee would knock down a deep three from the right wing to give the Chancellor’s their biggest lead of the game, at 77-63, with just over four minutes remaining. St. Thomas More would protect the ball well against late Hargrave pressure, and, despite several, late-game threes from Hairston, the local, NEPSAC power would convert free-throws and eventually hang on for a well-earned, 90-76 victory over the decided favorites from Virginia.
Mabrey led a balanced St. Thomas More attack with a huge, 22-point effort, to go along with 21 from Lee, 14 from Drummond and 10 from Fairfield-commit Adam Jones. Barksdale finished with a team-high 23 for Hargrave, with Hairston (six threes) and Brown adding 21 and 15 respectively.
#3 Note Dame Prep (MA) 76 #2 Brewster (NH) 71
Following St. Thomas More’s upset of top-seed Hargrave in Wednesday’s opening game, third-seeded Notre Dame would take on second-seeded and defending National Prep Champion Brewster with the Bobcats trying to make it a perfect 3-0 on the year against Prep. Notre Dame would open the game on fire, with uncommitted guards Todd Mayo, Ricardo Ledo, and Myles Davis connecting on multiple perimeter jumpers from all over the floor to help the Crusaders take an early, 10-4 lead. Brewster would respond with heightened defensive energy and aggressive play inside from Villanova-bound Markus Kennedy, eventually taking a 19-14 lead on a driving lay-up from Kansas-commit Naadir Tharpe and a deep three from Elijah Carter with just over 10 minutes remaining in the half. Ledo would connect on a smooth, mid-range pull-up in front of size to cut the Notre Dame deficit to two, at 27-25, with under five minutes to play in the half, and, after Mayo would bury a three from the right corner to put Prep up one, at 34-33, a few possessions later, Kennedy would answer with a bucket off a spin-move on the interior to give Brewster a 35-34 lead heading into the break.
Mayo would open the half scoring 13 out of Notre Dame’s first 15 points to give Prep a seven-point lead, at 49-42, before Kennedy would convert on a left-hand lay-in off an offensive rebound a few possessions later to cut the Brewster deficit to five, at 55-50, with 11 minutes to play. Ledo would knock a huge three on the ensuing possession to push the spread back to eight, and, after Pittsburgh-commit and McDonald’s All-American Khem Birch scored on a putback to stretch the lead to nine, at 62-53, a transition bucket from Mayo and a runner off the glass from Fordham-commit Devon McMillan would give Prep its biggest lead of the game, at 66-53, with just over six minutes remaining. However, Brewster would refuse to go away, as Pittsburgh commit Durand Johnson would lead a furious, late-game charge with a pair of threes and a transition hoop to cut the lead to one, at 66-65, with under three minutes remaining. Birch would respond with a tough, three-point play to push the lead back to four, and after a single Brewster free-throw and another Birch hoop inside, Carter would cut the Brewster lead back to three, at 71-68, with 1:26 remaining. Notre Dame would struggle to put the game away at the free-throw line in the closing seconds, and after an inside bucket from Kennedy that cut the lead to three at 74-71, Prep would eventually connect on a pair of free-throws from Myles Davis and hang on for a 76-71 victory.
Similar to Ledo’s explosive performance on Tuesday, Mayo finished with 33 for Notre Dame to lead all scorers, with Ledo adding 13 and Jamir Hanner contributing 10 to go along with an outstanding effort rebounding the ball at both ends. Kennedy finished with a team-high 17 points for Brewster, who was joined in double-figures by Carter with 13 and Johnson and Tharpe with 12 apiece.
Andre Drummond (St. Thomas More)- Matched-up with future Virginia Tech Hokie C.J. Barksdale in Wednesday’s first semifinal, the elite big in the national class of 2012 caught and finished above the rim in traffic, ran rim-to-rim in transition to soften the arc, and showed terrific ability as a crafty interior passer adept at recognizing double-teams and threading the ball to left-alone teammates for easy scores. While consistency remains his biggest challenge, Drummond (14 points) flashes signs of his potential as a dominant, game-changing force on both ends of the floor capable of making plays that others simply can’t because of his unmatched size and athleticism.
Roy Mabrey (St. Thomas More)- The recent St. Anselm’s commit was huge in St. More’s upset of top-seed Hargrave in Friday’s first semifinal, knocking down a variety of catch-and-shoot, perimeter jumpers at crucial times en route to a team-high 22 points and four threes. A solid athlete who competes hard on both ends, Mabrey showed impressive confidence in taking and making several big-time shots to negate any hint of a sustained Hargrave run in the second half of Wednesday’s game and was a key part of the Chancellor’s gritty defensive effort against their opponent’s deep stable of backcourt talent.
Damion Lee (St. Thomas More)- While showcasing his known ability to slash to the basket and score the ball from a variety of angles with either hand at the rim, the six-foot-six wing impressed most in Wednesday’s match-up with Hargrave with his lock-down defensive play against the likes ultra-athletic, Xavier-commit Dez Wells (three points) and Virginia Tech-bound Robert Walker. Lee (21 points) is dynamite attacking the rim in transition and, with a smooth, fluid feel, he’s tactfully aggressive without forcing the issue and consistently draws contact from defenders failing to match his tenacious, relentless approach.
P.J. Hairston (Hargrave Military)- A flat-out assassin with range that extends out well beyond the NBA stripe, the McDonald’s All-American and future North Carolina Tarheel was in rhythm early in Wednesday’s match-up with St. Thomas More, setting defenders up off fluid, quick-hit action in the half court and getting free for multiple shots from distance. Hairston (21 points, six threes) features a strong, college-ready body that he uses to outmuscle people on the defensive-end and force turnovers that lead to easy run-outs in transition, where he is a devastating finisher looking to embrace contact and score the ball at the rim.
C.J. Barksdale (Hargrave Military)- A quick-leaping menace in the paint, the six-foot-eight, future Virginia Tech Hokie showed off his terrific bounce around the rim and relentless motor in pursuing the ball off the glass for multiple second chance lay-ups and tip-ins over flat-footed defenders. With a wide, slender frame, Barksdale (team-high 23 points) doesn’t out-physical defenders on the low block, but works to establish position before the catch and features a variety of pump-moves and hooks he uses to score the ball over either shoulder with his length and deceptive polish around the rim.
Todd Mayo (Notre Dame Prep)- An explosive, straight-line scorer at six-foot-three, Mayo (game-high 33 points) filled it up in a variety ways against Brewster on Friday, hitting shots from behind the arc in volume, pulling up for a balanced mid-range jumper, and shaking defenders to elevate in the paint and score above the rim. The six-foot-three off-guard wastes little motion and little energy in lighting up the scoreboard, as he attacks with a sudden, precise burst from the wing to jet past his initial defender, beat help, and do what makes him one of the most coveted available prospects in the national class of 2011: score.
Ricky Ledo (Notre Dame)- After a sensational, 31-point performance in Prep’s semifinal victory over Tilton on Tuesday, the six-foot-six, ultra-smooth wing showcased his tremendous offensive talent again on Wednesday, knocking down threes in rhythm, shaking defenders with his creativity off the bounce, and hitting multiple, one-dribble pull-ups going to his left off a high, Iverson-style cut in the half court. With tremendous length and feel with the ball in hand, Ledo (13 points) consistently makes difficult plays seem easy and showed a desire to take big shots down the stretch in Notre Dame’s semifinal victory over Brewster on Friday.
Khem Birch (Pittsburg)- Quiet for the second half of Notre Dame’s victory over Tilton on Tuesday and for the majority of the first half on Wednesday, the McDonald’s All-American and future Pittsburgh Panther was a monster among men in the second half of Notre Dame’s hard-fought win over Brewster on Wednesday, rebounding the ball in volume on both ends, blocking shots well above the rim, and finishing through contact at crucial times down the stretch. When consistently active and engaged, few bigs in the country have the game-changing defensive talent of Birch (nine points), as the six-foot-nine, quick leaping forward is an elite shot-blocker capable of shutting down opposing team’s offense in the paint for long stretches with his length and leaping ability in tight space.
Jakarr Sampson (Brewster)- The highflying, blue-chip athlete might be the most electrifying transition scorer in the region, and he proved it in Friday’s semifinal match-up with Notre Dame with a variety of breathtaking finishes well-above the rim off lobs and a hard gather bounce through traffic. While the majority of his offensive production still comes solely from his superior athleticism around the rim, Sampson (eight points) shows signs of a developing skill-set that will diversify his approach and potentially make him a devastating offensive weapon head coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s down the road in the Big East.
Mitch McGary (Brewster)- An active, wide-body in the post with a tireless motor and deceptive athleticism, the six-foot-nine, 2012 big came off the bench to give Brewster a much-needed dose of energy in its match-up with Notre Dame on Friday. As the elite come-off-the-bench big in the region, McGary (nine points) utilizes terrific leverage to gain position for offensive rebounds and pursues the ball with reckless abandon off the glass to fight off contact, gain possession and score with authority in traffic with either hand.
#4 St. Thomas More (CT) 90 #1 Hargrave Military Academy (VA) 76
#3 Note Dame Prep (MA) 76 #2 Brewster (NH) 71