Sunday, March 9, 2008

Prep National Championships Title Game

Prep school basketball is an extremely competitive level of hoops. There are numerous top-notch programs in the nation, and many of them are in the New England area. Last year was the inaugural Prep National Championships event, a tournament with the top prep teams to determine a true national champion. This year’s event, held at Fordham University in Bronx, New York, featured eight of the premiere prep squads in America with a team traveling from as far away as Nevada. Numerous highly touted players, including Tyreke Evans and Devin Ebanks, were competitors in the event. The seeding of this year’s team’s was as follows: #1 Hargrave Military Academy (VA), #2 Findlay College Prep (NV), #3 Patterson School (NC), #4 Brewster Academy (NH), #5 American Christian Academy (PA), #6 Notre Dame Prep (MA), #7 Harmony School (OH), and #8 St. Thomas More School (CT). The seeding worked out well as the top two teams, Findlay and Hargrave, met in the national title game in a battle of unbeatens.
Findlay College Prep and Hargrave Military Academy both had rosters stacked with talent from top to bottom. Hargrave’s squad included Georgetown-signee 6’9 power forward Chris Braswell, Mississippi St.-bound 6’1 point guard Dee Bost, 6’11 senior West Virginia-commit Roscoe Davis, and Damier Pitts, a 5’11 point-guard headed to Marshall. Findlay’s roster this season boasted Kentucky-bound 6’6 guard DeAndre Liggins, 6’4 swingman New Mexico-commit Curtis Dennis, Florida St.-signee 6’4 guard Deividas Dulkys, 6'1 point guard and Cal St. Fullerton-commit Jacques Streeter, along with 6'10 Brice Massamba, a power forward who will taking his game to UNLV. The teams clashed for all the marbles on March 6th to decide a national champion. The game got off to a sluggish start and the teams went into the half with the game knotted up at 33. Both teams shot relatively well in the first 20 minutes, with Findlay at 43.3% and Hargrave at 44.0% including 45.5% from downtown. Jacques Streeter and Brice Massamba played well for Findlay, though Massamba went down hard off an attempt to grab an offensive rebound and came out limping due to a hurt knee, after a Hargrave bucket with about 11:00 to go in the half. Brice did not return until there was 6:15 remaining in the half, with his team behind 23-17. The big man was still limping, though he continued to play well. Meanwhile, Damier Pitts was Hargrave’s first half standout.
The second half was a whole other story, as the game’s intensity level went way up. Chris Braswell came on strong for Hargrave, and his team began to take control of the game about 10 minutes into the half. For the first part of the half, the teams were trading buckets and the score was within one either way at almost all times. Hargrave hit two threes and three shots from beyond the arc in a span of under three minutes, and went up ten, 58-48, with 6:40 remaining in the contest. Findlay cut the lead down to six, but Hargrave responded with yet another trey, making it 61-52. The score was the same with 4:19 to play, when Hargrave head coach Kevin Keatts took a timeout. Michael Peck, Findlay’s head coach, took the time to give his team an inspirational speech, in attempt to keep them in the game. Seven seconds later, Curtis Dennis hit his second basket while getting fouled in three minutes, and again missed the and-one shot. The two teams then traded buckets, and Hargrave’s lead remained at nine with 2:00 left in the national championship game. After a Jacques Streeter turnover, Damier Pitts hit one of two at the line, which DeAndre Liggins responded to by draining a three, cutting the lead to seven, 68-61 with just over 90 seconds to go. With the clock showing 1:19, Jorge Gutierrez of Findlay Prep fouled out, Deividas Dulkys came in, and Chris Braswell knocked down one of two at the line, stretching the lead back out to eight. Findlay answered with a three-ball just seven seconds later. Dee Bost then followed that up by hitting one of two at the line. Findlay, which was starting to catch fire late in the game, came down the court and had five chances to score and finally converted. DeAndre Liggins missed a three, then Curtis Dennis missed a deuce, and the ball went out of bounds off Hargrave. After the in-bounds, Dennis missed another three, then Liggins did so as well, but the fifth time was the charm, as a trifecta cut the lead to three, 70-67 with 45.6 remaining. Despite the late surge from Findlay, Hargrave would not give up their hold on the game. Dee Bost hit one of two at the line, but Streeter responded with a deuce, and the deficit was cut down to just two with 38.3 left to go. Hargrave came right back with a bucket, but was not able to convert on the and-one attempt. With 23.9 to go, Curtis Dennis came up big with a LONG three, and Hargrave’s lead was all the way down to just one, 73-72. Tommy Brenton of Hargrave then went to the line for two shots with 20.8 ticks to play. Tommy knocked down the second shot, and Findlay took the ball past half court and used their final timeout with 16.8 left in their comeback bid. After the timeout, Jacques Streeter drove to the hole, but couldn’t put the ball in the hoop. Dee Bost stepped to the free throw line, his team up two with 6.2 left, and the game on the line. Bost’s first shot rimmed out, but his second shot did fall. Kevin Keatts made a nice call, and had his team foul once Findlay crossed half court, preventing the possibility of a three-pointer, and also taking nearly five seconds off the clock. Coastal Carolina-commit Dexter Moore was the one who fouled, and it was DeAndre Liggins who was put at the charity stripe with 1.4 remaining. Liggins knocked in the first shot, and had to intentionally miss his second, in order to give his team a chance to send it into overtime. DeAndre executed to perfection, as his shot hit the back of the rim, bounced out and Curtis Dennis picked it up near the baseline. Dennis was forced to take a tough, contested shot, which was blocked by Chris Braswell. The big man grabbed the ball and screamed in triumph, as his squad won the national championship. Hargrave Military Academy completed an undefeated season with a national championship, beating Findlay Prep 75-73, in a fantastic contest.
The star of the game was Dee Bost of Hargrave Military Academy, and coach Kevin Keatts awarded his point guard with the MVP award plaque. Bost shot 6/13 from the field, including 4/11 from three-point range, along with being 10/15 at the stripe. The future Mississippi St. Bulldog finished with 26 points, five rebounds, three steals, and an assist. Chris Braswell was 5/11 from the field, and had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with four blocks and two steals. Damier Pitts shots was 8/22 from the field, ending the game with 22 points, eight boards, four assists, and three steals. Bost and Pitts both played all 40 minutes. Curtis Dennis came off the bench to lead Findlay in points, with 22. Dennis shot 50% from the field and 40% beyond the arc, and he also grabbed five rebounds. Jacques Streeter finished with 13 points on 5/12 shooting, to go along with three assists. Brice Massamba hit seven of 10 from the floor, ending with 15 points, and the big man added nine rebounds and two assists. Fouls and free throw won the game for Hargrave, as they picked up 15 fouls, to Findlay’s 27. This led to Hargrave taking 37 shots from the line, 22 of which were good, while Findlay was just 5/10 at the stripe. Both teams shot over 40% from the floor on the night, and the stats were quite close overall. Turnovers, total rebounds, and made threes had a differential of just one, while assists, blocks, and steals were only three apart. All in all, it was a well-played game, and a game that Hargrave deserved to win. Again, Hargrave Military Academy is the prep national champion, ending the season undefeated, cutting down the net at Fordham.

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