STM Wins National Prep Championship
With both teams coming off hard-fought victories over higher-seeded opponents earlier on Wednesday, perennial NEPSAC power and fourth-seeded St. Thomas More would take on third-seeded Notre Dame Prep in an all-New England final featuring some of the region’s elite prospects. After a high-energy, fast paced start highlighted by elite shot-making on both sides, Todd Mayo would hit a tough pull-up in the middle of the lane to put Notre Dame up two, at 14-12, with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first half, before St. Thomas More would answer with a series of hoops and take a four-point lead on a three from B.J. Cardarelli, at 20-16, with 10 minutes left to play before halftime. A beautifully-executed transition break, completed by a bucket from Damion Lee, would extend the St. Thomas More lead to nine, at 27-18, before an interior bucket from Drummond and a transition lay-up from Mabrey off a long outlet pass from Drummond would give the Chancellors their largest lead of the game, at 34-22, with 4:12 remaining in the half. Ricardo Ledo would knock down a three from the right corner and a soft floater in the lane in the closing minutes of the half, but Drummond would convert on two inside hoops, including a monstrous one-hand dunk off a lob from Indiana Faithful, to keep St. Thomas More ahead by 11, at 44-33, heading into the break.
Mayo would knock down a pure, pull-up three off a high ball-screen to keep Notre Dame within 10, at 52-42, with just under four minutes gone in the second half, before Ledo would hit a mid-range jumper and find Mayo for a reverse lay-up in transition to cut Prep’s deficit to six, at 54-48, with 14:33 remaining. Fairfield-commit Adam Jones would bury a big three at the top of the key to push the St. Thomas More lead back to nine, at 64-55, with nine minutes remaining, before a driving lay-up from Faithful and a two-hand dunk from Lee off a run-out would push the spread back to 11, at 72-61, with under six minutes to play. A dagger three from Lee and a plus-one bucket from Jones down the stretch would negate any chance of a Prep comeback, and, after a series of late free-throws, St. Thomas More would hold on for a 90-74 victory and be crowned the 2011 National Prep Champion.
Drummond finished with 19 points, including a variety of emphatic blocks and prolific finishes above the rim, en route to Most Outstanding Player honors. Lee contributed a team-high 25, with three second half threes, while Jones added 17 in a huge offensive effort. Mayo led Notre Dame with a game-high 27, with Ledo and Jamir Hanner adding 14 and 10 respectively.
Jere Quinn, St. Thomas More Head Coach: “I’ve been telling everybody all year that this group of kids has been one of my favorite all-time to coach. I’ve thought all season that we had the chance to be the best team in New England, and told our kids that, while we may not always be the most talented team at every position, we defend hard, share the basketball well, and really enjoy each other’s company. We were disappointed with the result last week, losing to New Hampton in the NEPSAC playoffs, and the way we were able to bounce back here with three convincing wins over three quality opponents is just a great testament to these kids.”
Damion Lee, St. Thomas More: “When we play against big-time competition, we really feel the sense of urgency to step it up and take our games to the next level. Personally, I may not be one of the higher-ranked players, but when I take floor against more-recognized players that are going on to play at big-time schools, I just go out and compete because I know they have to put on their shoes, just like me. It doesn’t matter if we’re up 30 or down 30, I try to be a leader on the floor and try to push my teammates to be as good as they can be while I continue to push myself to play as hard as I can and ultimately get it done.”
Most Outstanding Player
Andre Drummond (St. Thomas More)- Saving his most impressive, sustained effort for Wednesday’s championship victory over a Notre Dame team featuring two elite bigs in Khem Birch and Jamir Hanner, the six-foot-eleven, consensus top-ranked center in the national class of 2012 was a constant force on both ends of the floor, rebounding and blocking shots in high volume and scoring on several, thunderous finishes above the rim after beating people up the floor in transition. Drummond (19 points) proved how efficient he can be when he simplifies his approach offensively and makes it a priority to catch the ball near the basket and score with ease over smaller, less physical players, and, if the past two days are indicative of his steady progression into an assertive, dominate presence who impacts the game for sustained stretches, the sky is the limit for his future impact at the next level and beyond.
Tough In Defeat
Todd Mayo (Notre Dame Prep)- The six-foot-three wing refused to go down without a fight in Notre Dame’s tough loss to St. Thomas More in Wednesday’s final, finishing with a game-high 27 points, including 21 in the second half. The most impressive scorer at this year’s event, Mayo showed a quick, straight-line burst attacking the basket from the wing and demonstrated good bounce and terrific body control in rising up in traffic, avoiding the charge, and finishing from a variety of angles with either hand.