CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Sometimes when watching the Tilton School basketball team, it is hard to divert attention from the imposing 6-foot-10 figure of Nerlens Noel in the middle. But when Georges Niang has a game like he did Saturday in a 88-64 victory against Brimmer and May, one could almost forget Noel is even on the court.
Niang, a 6-foot-7 junior, put up 28 points and five rebounds against the home team, and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
He overshadowed what was a prolific game for Noel, who had 16 points, seven rebounds, and seven blocked shots. He exhibited much of the characteristics that make him the No. 3 recruit in the class of 2013, according to ESPN. When he needed to, he utilized a jump hook, a drop-step move, and thunderous dunks to score on his former Tilton teammate Ryan Canty, a Fordham commit.
Defensively, when he wasn’t blocking shots, Noel was altering Brimmer players’ approach, making life more difficult for them in the paint.
“When you have Nerlens, who blocks everything, and Goodluck (Okonoboh), who are such good rebounders and have such good knacks for the ball, sometimes I can run past a three-point shooter and start heading the other way (on offense),” said Niang. “I hate to do it, but sometimes you’re allowed to.”
Tilton (13-2) played most of the game in a full-court press, which stymied the Gators (4-10) and forced them to turn the ball over, giving the prep juggernaut layup opportunities that were more often than not turned into points.
“We thought if we just kind of sat back, they are pretty good in the half-court,” Tilton head coach Marcus O’Neil said. “They knocked down three-point shots, they’re good with their pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop stuff, so we didn’t want to just sit back and let them pick us apart. We tried to create turnovers. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do it but we did.”
His team jumped out to a 10-0 run to start the game and it never looked back. The pressure defense supplied by the likes of Dominique Bull, Aaron Law, and Wayne Selden wreaked havoc on the Gators' offense, allowing Marco Banegas (20 points) and company to get over half-court only three times in the first four minutes of the game.
“We knew they couldn’t stay with us if we kept the game moving,” said Niang. “We knew they could shoot the ball real well so we tried to push them off the arch. We felt that if we pressed them and made them go up against Nerlens, who blocks everything, that would help.”
Tilton even extended their lead to 23-2 with 11 minutes left in the first half, and had a 48-26 lead headed into the break. Brimmer was not the only team to face difficulty against these guys, however. Twelve of the Rams’ thirteen wins have been double-digit wins.
With that in mind, it can be hard for some to believe a 13-2 team has to improve on much as the season progresses, but O’Neil knows that to avoid complacency, his team has to keep working to get better, regardless of the record.
“Every day brings new challenges, sometimes those are successes and sometimes they are failures,” said O’Neil. “We try to take each day by itself and try to get better. If you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”