High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: St. Benedict's

Findlay Prep one win from third NHSI crown

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
4:43
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BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis of No. 1 seed Findlay Prep's (Henderson, Nev.) 68-55 victory over No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) in Friday's semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.

Overview: Findlay Prep, ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, had moments of sluggish play but outscored No. 15 St. Benedict's in every quarter to pull out a 13-point victory. St. Benedict's simply did not shoot well enough against a longer and deeper team. The Gray Bees made 19 of 57 field goals (33 percent) while Findlay Prep shot 24 of 45 (53 percent).

St. Benedict's coach Mark Taylor, in his first season after taking over a program that went 13-12 in 2010-11, felt his two star guards, Melvin Johnson and Tyler Ennis, didn't get their legs under them in the first half. Findlay Prep led 28-17 at halftime and outscored the Gray Bees 18-3 during a stretch late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.

Findlay Prep's lead grew to 51-36 at the conclusion of that run, but three late 3-pointers by Johnson gave the Gray Bees some life. Johnson's final triple made it 63-55 with 1:02 remaining in the game, but St. Benedict's could get no closer.

"They are a scrappy team, they got good guards and they played hard," Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said.

Turning Point: When Findlay Prep point guard Dominic Artis (12 points) failed to fight over a pick and allowed St. Benedict's Kamall Richards (9 points) to nail a 3-pointer with one second left in the first quarter. The Pilots outplayed the Gray Bees in the first quarter, but only led by two points (15-13). Peck gave his players a tongue-lashing at the break and they picked it up defensively the rest of the way.

"We came out flat in the first quarter and we didn't get to the rim," Taylor said. "We played better in the second half, but I thought we over-dribbled and didn't move the ball in the second quarter. We gave up too many transition buckets because of that."

Key Player: Findlay Prep wing Winston Shepard. The 6-foot-8 San Diego State recruit is the Pilots' best defender and most consistent performer on both ends of the floor. He loves the challenge of guarding the opposition's best player. He did a solid job on Johnson, a Miami recruit who came into the tournament averaging 22.5 points.

Johnson finished 5 of 16 from the field for 15 points, while Shepard led four Findlay Prep players in double figures with 17. Shepard made 7 of 8 field-goal attempts and added two assists and three steals.

Key Stat: St. Benedict's only made two field goals in the pivotal second quarter. The first came from Johnson at the 3:46 mark and made the score 21-15. Standout freshman Isaiah Briscoe (team-high 17 points) made the other at 1:17 to make the score 26-17. That was it for St. Benedict's in that eight-minute period as Findlay Prep outscored them, 13-4.

"We just picked it up in the second quarter," Shepard said. "We played hard defense and shot the gaps. We did our best to take out their two best players (Ennis and Johnson)."

St. Benedict's did not attempt a free throw in the first half and made only 7 of 26 field goals in the first half. For a team that did not get to the line, the Gray Bees needed to shoot a higher percentage from the field in order to win the game.

Up Next: The top-seeded Pilots will play No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) for the 2012 NHSI title Saturday at 2pm ET on ESPN. It's a rematch of the 2010 NHSI title game when Findlay Prep defeated the Eagles, 59-46. Findlay Prep will look to win its third NHSI championship in four years while Montverde Academy will look to capture its first title.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

NHSI preview: St. Benedict's Prep

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
12:00
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Team: No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 33-2, No. 15 (No. 7 in the East)
Head Coach: Mark Taylor (1st year at school, 31-1; previously spent nine years at St. Joseph of Metuchen, N.J. and five at Ridge of Basking Ridge, N.J.)

Key Players:

Melvin Johnson
The 6-foot-3 senior guard is labeled by Taylor as "probably the best shooter" he's coached in 15 seasons at three New Jersey schools. That's high praise since Taylor coached Jason Williams at St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) among 11 Division I players, including the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, in nine years at his alma mater. "Melvin can fill it up with unlimited range and driving floaters. He's special on the offensive side." The University of Miami recruit is ranked No. 92 in the ESPNU 100 and lived up to his billing with consistent play.

Tyler Ennis
The 6-foot-2 junior point guard runs the offensive attack for the Gray Bees, which averages 82.8 points a game. Ranked No. 41 in the ESPNU 60, he leads the team in assists (7.1 per game) and steals (2.5 avg.) while scoring 15.0 points a game, second to Johnson on the squad. "Tyler and Melvin get everyone involved in the game," Taylor said. "Our three guard setup drives the engine and Tyler's at the wheel. Our team chemistry is very good with a trio of guards and trio of forwards and Tyler is a big part of that."

Isaiah Briscoe
Not many freshman are starters, much less standouts, on FAB 50-ranked teams. But the 6-foot-3 first-year combo guard is no ordinary frosh. "Some analysts rate him in the Top 5 in his class," Taylor said. "He doesn't play like a freshman. He's very strong and plays above his age level." Briscoe is the team's third leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and second in assists (5.3 avg.). "With a senior, junior and freshman handling the ball much of the time, we have a mix that gives defenses fits," Taylor said.

Road to NHSI:

With a new head coach, some first-year players, and a regular season schedule not matching up with some of the top-ranked POWERADE FAB 50 teams after a 13-12 record in 2010-11, the Gray Bees were absent from the pre-season rankings.

But Taylor guided the Prep to nine straight wins in December before meeting up with defending FAB 50 champion St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) in a Jan. 1 clash of unbeatens. The Gray Bees took the current No. 3 ranked Friars to the wire before bowing 51-50. The Gray Bees reeled off 22 straight wins and soared up the FAB 50 charts to No. 10.

They concluded their regular season at the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational, where they dropped their second game of the season to FAB 50 No. 13 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 64-49 after opening the tournament with a 69-65 victory over John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.). They rebounded to defeat No. 46 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) for third place.

"We beat Gonzaga without Tyler Ennis and Jordan Forehand, who had a bad ankle, and led the whole way," Taylor said.

Coach Taylor feels strongly the Gray Bees didn't deserve to drop a few seeds after losing to eventual tournament champion DeMatha without the services of Ennis. He does understand the Alhambra Tournament served as a nice tune-up for the NHSI, where the Gray Bees will enter with confidence because Ennis will be cleared to play.

Inside Scoop:

Taylor's two-trio attack has worked to near perfection. He uses three guards -- Johnson, Ennis and Briscoe -- out front and has three forwards, all Canadians, he rotates at the two front court spots. The inside players are 6-6 senior Kamalll Richards, 6-8 junior Isaiah Watkins and 6-7 senior Denzell Taylor. "The two-trio setup has worked well," Taylor said.

Richards averages 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds; Taylor 5.7 points and 6.9 rebounds; and Watkins 8.2 points and a team-best 8.1 rebounds a game. The fact the Gray Bees are the only team which is playing in two major tournaments -- the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Frostburg, Md., and the NHSI -- over the course of three weekends hasn't escaped Taylor's watch. "We've played some good teams one at a time but this two-week pace is like the college Big East Tournament with back-to-back-to-back games against elite teams. It's survival of the fittest."

Findlay Prep gets No. 1 seed for NHSI

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
2:01
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ESPNHS has announced the seedings for the eight boys' teams that will compete in the fourth annual ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

The year's event, which features six POWERADE FAB 50-ranked teams, will be March 29-31 at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md. The championship game is set for 2 p.m. ET March 31 on ESPN.

As expected, two-time NHSI champion Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was awarded the top seed and will face No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) March 29. Coolidge (29-7) will have its hands full with the No. 2 team in the country. In three years, only Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) has played the top seed in the No. 1 versus No. 8 game down to the wire, and that came in 2010 when Montrose lost to Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) by two points.

This year, FAB 50 No. 9 Montrose Christian (20-2) snagged the second seed and opens the tournament with seventh-seeded Ravenscroft (Ravenscroft, N.C.). The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A champions come in with a 31-3 mark, but they didn't venture too far from home this season and are decided underdogs against the defending NHSI champions.

Returning from last year's championship team is emotional leader Justin Anderson, a Virginia recruit, and Michael Carrera, who averaged a record 12.7 rebounds in Montrose Christian's three victories. Stu Vetter's club has to show its backcourt is capable without reigning tourney MVP Tyrone Johnson (now at Villanova), but Ravenscroft has even more to prove. The last two years, the NCISAA entrant has been routed in its opener.

After missing last year's event because of key early season losses, No. 12 Montverde Academy is back in the fold as the third seed. Kevin Sutton coached the team in 2010 when they advanced to the finals, but this year the 21-3 Mustangs have a new coach in Kevin Boyle. He turned St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) into a national power but his program never had the opportunity to compete at the NHSI.

Boyle now gets the opportunity against No. 6 seed La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), a newcomer on the national scene with a big and talented roster. Montverde not only faces the challenge of a hungry 25-2 team ranked No. 23, they also face the challenge of idle time. Montverde had not played another high school since Feb. 4.

One team that certainly won't have any problems with idle time is fourth seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), which competed in the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational last weekend. Gray Bees lost only their second game of the season (33-2) to eventual tournament champion DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) in the semifinals.

Had St. Benedict's won that tournament without its point guard (Tyler Ennis) and sixth man (Jordan Forehand), there's a strong possibility they would have been seeded second. They only dropped five spots in the FAB 50 to No. 15 (two spots behind DeMatha) and will open the NHSI against fifth-seeded Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.), the FHSAA Class 7A state champ ranked No. 16. If Ennis and Forehand are not healthy for St. Benedict's, they could have trouble stopping the backcourt of Ely, which has proven its scoring ability in big games this season.

If St. Benedict's situation is any indication, this could be the most balanced NHSI field yet. Findlay Prep wants another crack at La Lumiere to avenge its only loss, but in order for that to occur both teams have to advance to the championship game. If history is any indication, La Lumiere might have a good shot at the semifinals (where defending champion Montrose Christian could be waiting) since the No. 6 seed has won in the opening round the past two years.

"You play 30 games for a seeding, but when the ball goes up, everyone is 0-0," said Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck. "We're blessed to be able to participate, as these games give the competing teams some closure."

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Field set for boys' teams at NHSI

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
9:00
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The fourth annual ESPNHS National High School Invitational, set for March 29-31 at Georgetown Prep (Bethesda, Md.), is highlighted by the return of previous champions among the eight-team boys' field.

Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), which won the inaugural event in 2009 and repeated as champions in 2010, is a slight favorite to win this year's NHSI title. The No. 2 ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50 is not a prohibitive favorite because the field of talented teams -- including No. 10 St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.), and No. 11 and defending NHSI champion Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) -- includes the only team to beat the Pilots this season.

That team is No. 25 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), which made national headlines in late December by defeating Findlay Prep 67-66 at the Mike Miller Invitational in South Dakota. The Lakers jumped on the Pilots early and went up 18 points before holding on at the end. This will be the first opportunity for La Lumiere to play on national television and show the country the win over Findlay Prep was no fluke.

"I think we feel like we got something to prove," La Lumiere coach Allan Huss said. "What you'll see is a hungry group. We might be a little sloppy right off the bat from the layoff, but we have some guys who, individually, think they don't get the recognition they deserve."

Since many of the participating teams don't compete for state championships, there will be sizable layoffs before quarterfinal play begins on March 29 at 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU). For instance, No. 14 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), the 2010 NHSI runner-up, concluded its regular season on Feb. 4.

The one team that might have an advantage in this area is St. Benedict's Prep, which will compete against a tough field at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational in Frostburg, Md., March 15-17. That tournament should be a good test for the level of competition the Gray Bees could face should they advance past the first round. If they lose at Alhambra, it will likely affect the seedings for this year's NHSI, which will be announced the week of March 19.

No. 16 Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) will be a dangerous public school entrant and could be a dark horse to win it all, if last year is any indication. At the 2011 NHSI, Florida Class 5A state champ Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) upset Findlay Prep in the first round as a No. 6 seed behind a memorable performance by Jacoby Brissett, currently the starting quarterback at Florida. Ely is currently ranked in the same spot as Dwyer was entering last year's tournament and the Class 7A state champ Tigers will enter the NHSI battle-tested. Led by forward Clide Geffrard, Ely's only two losses are to No. 13 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and Montverde Academy.

Rounding out the field is North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A champion Ravenscroft and District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association champion Coolidge (Washington, D.C.). Coolidge will take on No. 9 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) for the city title on March 20. Win or lose, you can't count them out against this NHSI field. After all, they did hand Montrose Christian one of its two regular season losses.

Regardless of how the brackets play out, this year's NHSI has a tough act to follow. In last year's championship game, Montrose Christian defeated Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in double overtime 71-64.

"It's always good to get another chance to repeat," said Montrose Christian's Justin Anderson, whose last second 3-pointer sent last year's title game into a second overtime. "It's not the same team we had last year, so I want to put our heads together and lead my team to another title."

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

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