High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: POWERADE FAB 50

Oak Hill Academy celebrates national title

May, 14, 2012

MOUTH OF WILSON, Va. -- When you've been running the same program for as long as Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith -- 27 years and counting -- you tend to build rituals that become part of maintaining excellence. Every year after the first three practices, Smith writes down what he expects of his team. He keeps the paper in his desk drawer in the basketball office alongside the numerous trophies and artifacts he's accumulated in winning 860 games against only 53 losses since the 1985-86 season.

"I felt like we'd probably lose a couple games because of our scheduling," Smith said. "I didn't tell that to the guys, of course, but they were 11 guys that bonded together and got it done."

In the end, the team exceeded expectations and set a school record with 44 victories. In a school assembly May 11, they were honored for that feat and for capturing their seventh FAB 50 national title. The Warriors’ received medals, special Jordan Brand shoes and the ultimate team prize, the 2011-12 POWERADE FAB 50 national championship trophy.

"This is awesome," said point guard Tyler Lewis of the 200-person assembly that included Oak Hill's student body, administration, longtime supporters and parents who make the trek from out of town to rural southwest Virginia. "Finishing No. 1 and winning a ring is the reason why you come to Oak Hill."

Lewis' season at Oak Hill embodied the makeup of this year's team. Traditionally, Oak Hill players transfer in from all over the world, usually just for a season or two. So when Smith's coaching brethren heard Lewis arrived from Statesville, N.C., they were a bit skeptical. Lewis, an N.C. State recruit, ended up being Oak Hill's 28th McDonald's All-American.

"I told them 'guys, I think this kid is a little better than you guys think,'" Smith said. "He helped ground the other players like D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. He knew what play to run, what side of the floor to run it on and knew what guy needed the ball."

In the spirit of this team-first oriented group, Smith named team tri-MVPs for the first time ever: Lewis, two guard Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and wing Jordan Adams (UCLA).

Smith has named team co-MVPs twice in his tenure -- in 1992-93 with Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff McInnis and in 2003-04 with Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo. Not surprisingly, all four of those players made the NBA and both those unbeaten teams are not only considered Oak Hill's two best ever, but two of the best teams in high school basketball history.

This season Oak Hill's sum was greater than its individual parts and 7-foot center A.J. Hammons (Purdue), the team's best rebounder, put it best.

"If somebody wasn't playing well, there was always somebody willing to step up," Hammons said. "We weren't the most talented team [at Oak Hill], but we came together as a team and with 44 wins and zero losses we made a statement."

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

FAB 50 National Champions, 1952-2012

April, 2, 2012
Editor's note: The POWERADE FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 12 years ago.


2012 -- Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) (44-0); HC-Steve Smith; ESPN-USA-NPP.--On their way to setting a school record for wins and their seventh FAB 50 title, the Warriors defeated teams from 13 states and the District of Columbia and Canada, including five FAB 50 ranked teams. No. 2 Findlay Prep captured its third ESPNHS NHSI title in four years with a thrilling 86-83 overtime victory over No. 9 Montverde Academy, but it wasn't enough for the Pilots to hop unbeaten Oak Hill. The common opponent factor (with Oak Hill easily beating La Lumiere), Findlay Prep's inability to avenge the loss to La Lumiere, and the manner in which they defeated Montverde Academy all played a factor. Leading the way for Smith, now with a 27-year 860-53 record, were 5-foot-11 point guard and McDonald's All-American Tyler Lewis, a North Carolina State commit, plus 6-foot-5 Jordan Adams (UCLA), 6-foot-3 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and 7-foot A.J. Hammon (Purdue).

2011 -- St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) (33-0); HC-Bob Hurley, Sr.; ESPN-USA-NPP.--The Friars capped the school's sixth unbeaten season with their second mythical national title in four seasons and fourth overall since 1989. Naismith Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., led the program to its 11th Tournament of Champions crown and 24th Non-Public Group B state crown. Hurley, who won his 1,000th game during the season, had a team that handed DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) its worst loss ever, 75-25, and beat four other teams ranked in the final FAB 50. Behind the stellar play of senior guard Myles Mack, a Rutgers recruit, and junior wing Kyle Anderson, the Friars defeated then No. 1 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), 62-45, on March 9. St. Anthony's other two No. 1 finishes in 1996 and 1989 also produced undefeated seasons.

2010 -- Yates (Houston, Texas) (32-0); HC-Greg Wise; ESPN-USA-NPP.--The Lions became the first public school since 2006 to finish No. 1 and the first team from the Lone Star State since 2002. Wise's team, with depth and a signature full-court defense that never let up, captured its second straight Class 4A title and had an average winning margin greater than 40 points per game. Led by guards Joseph Young (Providence) and Brandon Peters (Western Kentucky), Yates set a national record with 15 consecutive 100-point outings and ended the season riding a 58-game winning streak. Yates defeated three state champions, including No. 2 Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) by a point.

2009 -- Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) (33-0); HC-Michael Peck; ESPN-USA-NPP.--In its first year as a school with strictly four-year players, Findlay Prep captured the first-ever ESPN RISE National High School Invitational with a 74-66 victory over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). Led by first-team all-American and Texas recruit Avery Bradley, Findlay Prep handed Oak Hill its only loss of the season after 40 wins. Bradley scored 20 points and had eight rebounds in the win over Oak Hill while other big contributors were seniors D.J. Richardson,Victor Rudd and junior Cory Joseph.

2008 -- St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) (32-0); HC-Bob Hurley, Sr.; Rivals-USA-NPP.--The Friars capped an unbeaten season with their 10th Tournament of Champions title in New Jersey. It was the fifth unbeaten season, and third national crown, for 36-year coach Bob Hurley, Sr.,who guided No. 1 teams in 1989 and 1996. The team was led by Rutgers recruit and McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario while Hurley's son, Danny, coached the No. 2 team in the country at St. Benedict's in nearby Newark. Hurley Sr. was recently elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame, only the second high school coach ever selected following six-time mythical national title winning coach Morgan Wootten of DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.).

To see the rest of the capsules for the all-time FAB 50 national champions and a detailed listing of every national champion going back to 1952, CLICK HERE.

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

Bennett comes full circle; FAB 50 implications

March, 31, 2012
BETHESDA, Md. -- It was a special moment for tournament MVP Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). Not many of the national television audience realize the No. 7 player in the ESPNU 100 played only 10 games for the Pilots heading into the NHSI and missed the majority of their big wins this season.

With all the setbacks Bennett has endured over the past two seasons, he was relieved to finally lead Findlay Prep to an NHSI title by averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Pilots' three victories here.

As a sophomore, he was a member of the Mountain State Academy (Beckley, W.Va.) team that lost to Findlay Prep 68-53 in the semifinals. He scored 10 points in 22 minutes in that loss and netted 12 points in 29 minutes for Findlay Prep in its quarterfinal loss to Dwyer (Pompano Beach, Fla.) last season.

"This is the farthest I came in this tournament," said Bennett, one of five Pilots in double figures with 13 points to go with a game-high 9 rebounds in the championship-game comeback win over Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).

"Coming in, I really wanted to win it this year," Bennett said.

The unsigned Bennett, who lists Washington, Oregon, UNLV, Kentucky and Florida as his college finalists, missed nearly half of his junior season at Findlay. His back injury flared up again at the beginning of this season. His hamstring injury lingered all season long and he was relieved to be healthy for the NHSI.

He's crossing his fingers about next season.

"Hopefully that doesn't happen in college," Bennett said. "Hopefully my college trainer will take care of me."

Now The Fun Part

The final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, which will be released on April 2, will have some shuffling based on the results of this year's NHSI. With No. 12 Montverde Academy giving up an 18-point lead and losing to No. 2 Findlay Prep, there will be a spirited No. 1 versus No. 2 rankings debate between No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and the Pilots.

The big question is if one-loss Findlay has done enough to overcome 44-0 Oak Hill. On paper, the Pilots have a strong enough résumé to be ranked No. 1 in the country.

They own wins over No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas), No. 6 Simeon (Chicago) and No. 11 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). For the past few seasons, most of those big wins came on the road and this season was no exception.

Ironically, this game had the same feel as Findlay's only loss this season -- a one-point setback to No. 23 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) on Dec. 29 at the Mike Miller Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Pilots trailed in that game by the same margin as they did to Montverde, but the difference was at the NHSI they were able to complete the comeback win.

"At halftime, I told the guys 'Here we go again, December 29, La Lumiere,'" Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck said. "I pulled out all the different motivation factors. At first I really got into them, then I tried to be calm and use logic."

Peck's tactics worked against Montverde, but the La Lumiere loss is still a part of the equation when it comes to the final FAB 50 rankings. Another key part of the equation is the common opponent factor, which has always been an important aspect of the FAB 50. Oak Hill Academy defeated the same La Lumiere team by 18 points and owns five wins over opponents currently ranked in the FAB 50.

Another smaller factor which will be used in the final analysis is the fact La Lumiere lost in the quarterfinals of the NHSI to Montverde. The Lakers didn't look overly impressive in the 62-54 defeat. Findlay has to be thrilled about its comeback win over Montverde, but had La Lumiere advanced to the NHSI finals, an avenging win would have been sweeter from a rankings perspective.

No Oak Hill, No Problem

After knocking off No. 12 Montverde in the NHSI title game, the popular question for No. 2 Findlay was whether the win meant as much despite not coming against No. 1 Oak Hill Academy.

The Warriors opted not to compete in the NHSI for the first time since its inception in 2009. Oak Hill, which finished the season 44-0, traveled to China from March 7 to 19 to play nine games against international competition. The Warriors went on spring break when they got back, according to coach Steve Smith.

Findlay finished 32-1.

“All we could control was playing these games and winning these games,” Nigel Williams-Goss said. “Whatever happens on Monday with the rankings happens. We’re just happy about this win.”

Added Peck: “That’s something we can’t control. All we could do is control us. Steve [Smith] has his reasons and that’s his decision. We were focused on us.”

2012 ESPNHS NHSI All-Tournament

Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (MVP)
Brandon Ashley, Findlay Prep
Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy
Michael Carrera, Montrose Christian
Melvin Johnson, St. Benedict's

Jason Jordan contributed to this report.

Findlay steals NHSI title from Montverde

March, 31, 2012

BETHESDA, Md. -- Anthony Bennett knew it all along.

While everyone else had written him and top-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) off after falling behind by as many as 18 points late in the second half to No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in the ESPNHS National High School Invitational title game, Bennett knew it was only a matter of time before the Pilots turned the tables.

With 1.2 seconds left in overtime, Bennett tipped Eagles forward Patricio Garino’s inbounds pass out of bounds, clapped his hands together and yelled to the stands, “We ain’t losing fam! We ain’t losing!”

Bennett was right.

Findlay (32-1) managed an improbable comeback late in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually steal an 86-83 win over the Eagles (23-3) to claim the ESPNHS NHSI title Saturday at Georgetown Prep, in a game that was nationally televised on ESPN.

It was the Pilots’ third ESPNHS NHSI title in four years. Findlay, which is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, won back to back in 2009 and 2010.

Brandon Ashley led the Pilots with 31 points, while Nigel Williams-Goss added 17 and Bennett, the tournament's MVP, chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds. Kasey Hill led Montverde with 23 points and six assists.

“I pulled out everything motivational that I could,” Findlay coach Michael Peck said. “I tried everything, but at some point their switch went on and they got it done. It was all them. It was all them.”

Added Ashley: “This was the best way to go out. We fought hard and we got it done. We never got down or hung our heads. We always believed in ourselves and we got it done, man. We got it done.”

In the first half it was the Eagles who were getting it done, dominating Findlay in all aspects and claiming a 38-29 lead. Findlay’s big four -- Bennett, Ashley, Dominic Artis and Winston Shepard -- combined to shoot just 5-of-17 in the first half.

The Eagles continued to pour it on in the third quarter, beating the Pilots to loose balls, owning the offensive glass and beating them in transition. Michael Frazier made Findlay pay for switching to a 2-3 zone, draining three of the Eagles’ four third-quarter 3s to extend the Eagles’ lead to 54-39 headed into the fourth.

That’s when Ashley came alive.

He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, overpowering Montverde’s frontcourt in the paint. Ashley drained two free throws with 20.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.

“Brandon Ashley put the cape on,” Peck said. “He was the Brandon he was supposed to be.”

Montverde coach Kevin Boyle pointed out the fact that the Pilots lived at the free throw line late in the game. The Pilots made 24 of 27 free throws in the second half.

“They got a lot of calls and they were living on the line,” Boyle said. “So that means they’re scoring without the clock moving. They fought hard, but I thought they got a lot of whistles, too.”

Late in overtime, Williams-Goss hit a floater to give the Pilots an 84-83 lead, then Shepard corralled a miss from Hill, got fouled and made both free throws to secure the win.

“This was pretty fun,” Ashley said. “It’s been a lot this week with [the] McDonald’s All-American Game and this tournament, but we got it done. This was the best way to go out. Better than I ever imagined it.”

Star points Artis, Hill clash for NHSI title

March, 30, 2012
Dominica Artis and Kasey HillJoe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesMontverde coach Kevin Boyle said he wants Kasey Hill, right, to play "more cocky" and sees an NHSI matchup with Findlay point guard Dominic Artis as the perfect opportunity to up his on-court swag.

BETHESDA, Md. -- Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) coach Kevin Boyle likes his point guards to have a certain pizzazz.

After 23 years at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), Boyle became accustomed to guards like Kyrie Irving, Shaheen Holloway and Dexter Strickland, who were so dominant it was hard not to have an on-court swagger about them.

That’s where he wants his current floor general, Kasey Hill, to get mentally.

“This kid’s so humble and nice,” Boyle said of Hill. “I almost want him to be a little cocky on the court. That’s something that he’s developing now so I like for him to play in games or against guys that help with that.”

Hill will get a key opportunity to build that bravado when he and the No. 3-seed Eagles face No. 1 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and dynamic point guard Dominic Artis Saturday (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) in the ESPNHS National High School Invitational boys' title game.

Findlay, which is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, is going for its third NHSI title (2009, 2010) in four years. The Pilots beat Montverde, which is ranked No. 12, 59-46 to claim the title in 2010.

“I’m looking forward to matching up against Dominic, for sure,” Hill said. “I don’t know if that’ll make me more cocky. I’m just not that kind of player, but it’d definitely give me even more confidence playing well against a big-time player like that.”

Artis, a senior who is signed to Oregon, is the No. 8 point guard in the ESPNU 100. Boyle referred to him as “Findlay’s head.”

“If you can cut off the head then you’ve got a real shot, you know,” Boyle said. “Kasey’s a great defender and he’ll have his hands full with Dominic, but Kasey’s more than capable of being a lockdown defender against anyone.”

Hill certainly proved that in the semifinal win over Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), last year’s NHSI champ. He held Mustangs star forward Justin Anderson, a senior who is signed to Virginia, to just one field goal and three points.

“I really try and go hard on defense,” said Hill, a junior who is the No. 3 point guard in the ESPNU 60. “Some guys rest on defense, but I go hard on both ends. I’ll definitely do that tomorrow against Dominic.”

Despite Boyle’s hope for Hill to use the matchup with Artis as a way to build a court-conceited mentality, Artis was quick to point out that, “I’m not the guy people make a name off of.”

“But either way, Kasey’s a great player,” Artis said. “He’s gonna be tough to stop, but we’ll do it together as a team. That’s the best way to stop a player like him.”

Through two games Hill is averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 assists. Artis is averaging 13 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals.

Findlay coach Mike Peck coached Hill at the freshman All-American Camp in Lexington, Ky., back in 2010 and said that Hill reminded him of a young Rod Strickland, the former All-NBA point guard who averaged 13.2 points and 7.3 assists over 17 years.

“He’s shifty and he’s got a great feel for the game,” Peck said of Hill. “One thing he’s gotten a lot better at is his ability to shoot it. Obviously he’s having a great tournament here, so he’ll be a handful, there’s no question.”

Peck said that the Pilots would employ the same “elbow block” defensive scheme on Hill that they used against Irving in 2010 when they beat St. Patrick 71-70 at the Hoophall Classic.

“Basically any time Kasey has the ball, the strong-side elbow or block needs to be occupied,” Peck said. “That way if he gets by his man, which he’s good at, the help is right there. Sometimes that will discourage a guy from challenging that first line of defense.”

Artis doesn’t anticipate Hill being discouraged by any defensive scheme the Pilots throw his way.

“I know how great point guards think, and I know that whatever another team tries to throw at me won’t matter," said Artis. "I’m still gonna do my thing. That’s my mentality, and I know that Kasey probably thinks that same way.”

Good guess.

Hill initially downplayed the matchup against Artis, but later admitted that a strong showing against him and the Pilots would “be a win for everyone.”

“Of course I can’t wait to play against a guy like Dominic,” Hill said. “We’re both competitive, and I know we’ll both bring it. I want to play well because it will help my team win a national championship. That’s what’s most important. I know that everything else that comes with that will be a good opportunity for me, too.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Montverde squeaks past Montrose Christian

March, 30, 2012

BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 3 seed Montverde’s (Fla.) 50-47 win over No. 2 seed Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) in the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Friday:

Overview: The Eagles, who are ranked No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50, had to adjust to Montrose’s frantic defensive pressure, but when they figured it out, they made the Mustangs pay by moving the ball around and finding the open man. Michael Frazier knocked down two threes to ignite an early 8-0 run and put the Eagles ahead after falling behind 4-0. Still, neither team could do much to separate itself in the first half. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Eagles’ duo of Frazier and Kasey Hill, who led the Eagles with 20 points, started to really expose Montrose’s overzealous defensive scheme. That led to a 12-point Montverde lead headed into the fourth. The Mustangs, who are ranked No. 9 in the FAB 50, stormed back in the fourth quarter and took their first lead, 41-40, with 2:11 left in regulation on Michael Carrera’s putback layup. Down the stretch, Hill came up with big buckets to give the Eagles a cushion. Mustangs forward Justin Anderson’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer missed off the back of the rim and the Eagles marched on. Montrose won the ESPNHS NHSI last year, a double-overtime thriller over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

“They just couldn’t score in the halfcourt set,” said Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “They had one basket in the halfcourt in the first half. We just really tightened up defensively and got a big win over a great team.”

Turning Point: After the Mustangs opened the fourth quarter on a 14-2 run and eventually took the lead, Hill responded by scoring six of the Eagles’ final 10 points to seal the win.

“I wasn’t gonna lose the game,” said Hill, a Florida commit. “I knew that I could get to the rim when I wanted to, and I would have to step up and make plays. I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Key Player: Anderson, the No. 55 player in the ESPNU 100, had one of his worst statistical games of the season, shooting just 1 of 14 from the field and finishing with just three points. He was scoreless in the first half, and scored his only field goal on a breakaway layup with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

“It happens as a ballplayer,” said Anderson, a Virginia signee. “Sometimes you have bad games. This was just a bad game for me.”

Added Boyle: “Kasey did a terrific job guarding Justin. He forced him into tough shots all day and when he drove he had to shoot over our big guys. Kasey’s impact defensively was huge.”

Key Stat: The Mustangs shot 7 of 16 from the 3-point line in their quarterfinal win over Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.). But in the loss to Montverde, Montrose missed all seven of its attempts from downtown.

“We did a great job of getting our hands up on their shot attempts,” Boyle said. “I don’t think they had a clean look all day, and that’s a credit to the kids and their defensive pressure.”

Up Next: The Eagles will face No. 1 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) in the title game Saturday (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). Findlay Prep is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Montverde Academy is ranked No. 12.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.
BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 4 seed St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) 67-61 win over No. 5 seed Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) in the quarterfinals of the National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Thursday:

Overview: St. Benedict's found itself trailing by double digits in the second quarter, but the Gray Bees tightened up on defense in the second half and surged past Blanche Ely, 67-61, to advance to the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

Blanche Ely, the No. 16 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, shot 57 percent in the first half and held a 40-32 lead at the half. St. Benedict's, ranked No. 15 in the FAB 50, responded by coming out of the locker room in lockdown mode, holding Blanch Ely to just seven points in the third quarter. Senior guard Melvin Johnson and freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe were pivotal, as they came up with three steals apiece.

Johnson, the No. 92 player in the ESPNU 100, scored a team-high 17 points. Briscoe added 11, and junior guard Tyler Ennis chipped in 14.

Turning Point: The St. Benedict's defense was shredded in the first half. The Gray Bees gave up 40 points, with Blanche Ely senior forward Clide Geffrard and senior guard Benji Bell doing most of the damage on pick-and-rolls. St. Benedict's tried playing man and zone to slow the duo down, but nothing seemed to work.

That changed after halftime. The Gray Bees came out more focused on the defensive end and played straight man the entire half. They held Blanche Ely to 29.6 percent shooting in the second half and forced 10 turnovers (17 overall). That helped St. Benedict's get into the open floor, where the trio of Ennis, Johnson and Briscoe took over.

"We were disappointed in the way we defended in the first half," said St. Benedict's coach Mark Taylor. "In the second half we made the decision that we were going to go man. We hedged harder. We sent weak-side help. We stopped changing the D and went with what worked."

Geffrard scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, mostly on dunks and lay-ups right at the rim. After the break, the St. Benedict's defense held him to just four points on five shots.

"There was a lot of help-side defense (in the second half)," said Geffrard. "They kept switching and rotating."

Key Player: Just a freshman, Briscoe came into the tournament averaging about three points per game. But the 6-foot-3 guard came up huge during St. Benedict's second-half comeback. Briscoe scored 10 of his 11 points after halftime while adding four assists, three steals and a block.

Briscoe also made a game-changing play midway through the fourth quarter. With St. Benedict's clinging to a two-point lead, he stripped his man at midcourt and went to the floor to make the diving steal. He then got up, gained control and drove in for a lay-up to make it a 55-51 game.

Junior Isaiah Watkins also had a huge game for the Gray Bees, as the 6-foot-8 forward posted 14 points and 14 rebounds, including nine offensive boards.

Key Stat: With Blanche Ely making almost 60 percent of its shots in the first half, St. Benedict's couldn't fully utilize its three-guard offense in the open court. But once the defense clamped down in the second half, the Gray Bees' offense took off. St. Benedict's finished with 20 fast break points, compared to just 10 for Blanche Ely.

Up Next: With top-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) -- the No. 2 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 -- looming as a potential opponent in the NHSI semifinals, St. Benedict's is going to need more production from its bench. The Gray Bees played just two subs against Blanche Ely, with the bench guys contributing five points in 23 minutes. Findlay Prep is arguably the deepest squad in the nation and is uniquely qualified to take advantage of any team's lack of depth.

Montrose Christian rolls past Ravenscroft

March, 29, 2012

BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 2 seed Montrose Christian’s (Rockville, Md.) 64-48 win over No. 7 seed Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) in the quarterfinals of the National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep Thursday:

Overview: Montrose Christian, ranked No. 9 in the POWERADE Fab 50, caught fire early, draining three 3-pointers in the first quarter to claim an early 16-7 lead. Montrose forward Justin Anderson had two of his own and ramped up the defensive pressure to help the Mustangs force eight turnovers and keep the Ravens at bay for much of the first half.

Montrose shot 60 percent from the 3-point line in the first half. Then Mustangs went on a 9-0 run midway through the third that devastated Ravenscroft.

The Ravens started forcing tough, contested threes and folding under the Mustangs’ intense defensive pressure.

“We had to get our rhythm back because we hadn’t played in a long time,” said Montrose coach Stu Vetter. “But these guys are strong and they really battled. Our defensive intensity was the difference in the game. We picked up our momentum defensively and that’s what got it done.”

Turning Point: Up just 36-32 midway through the third quarter, Montrose forward Ishmail Wainright caught Yuri Togashi’s missed three off the rim and flushed it with authority, sending the Montrose-heavy crowd into a frenzy. On the next play, the Mustangs forced a turnover and found Anderson in the right corner for the three. Then, after another Ravenscroft turnover, Togashi threw Anderson an alley-oop in transition.

That sequence of events seemed to take the Ravens’ heart.

“Their physicality hurt us,” Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman said. “We’d cut it to four, but then they went on that explosion and that made it really tough for us.”

Key Player: Anderson was a matchup problem for the Ravens all night. When they sagged off he drained threes and when they pushed up on him he drove the lane and made plays. Anderson finished with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“Justin’s one of the best players in the country,” Vetter said. “I’ve coached a lot of great players and he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached. I think a lot of people have overlooked him as far as McDonald’s and Jordan All-American games. He’s one of the best players in the country without question.”

Ravenscroft guard Anton Gill drained two 3-pointers in the loss, tying the Ravenscroft record for career 3-pointers at 106, which had been held by Corwin Davis, who starred at Ravenscroft from 1997-2001.

Key Stat: The Ravens shot just 4 of 21 (19 percent) from the 3-point line in their loss. During the regular season they shot 34 percent and broke a school record for 3-pointers made with 138. The old record was 130.

“We haven’t played a game in 32 days,” Billerman said. “We’ve only had seven practices over that time so that’s rough. We had good looks, but we just couldn’t get them to fall.”

Up Next: The Mustangs will face No. 3 seed Montverde (Fla.) Friday (11:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2) in the semifinals. Montverde, ranked No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50, knocked off La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) 62-54 Thursday in the quarterfinals.

“They’re a great team,” Wainright said of Montverde. “They really play hard, and I’m looking forward to playing against them.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

All-American Pilots promise champion effort

March, 28, 2012
CHICAGO -- Brandon Ashley had to admit that the point was valid, but he wasn’t about to agree with it completely.

Last year, Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Myck Kabongo were all adamant that their hectic schedule during the week of the McDonald’s All-American Game plus the minimal amount of sleep they got the night before they flew from Chicago to Bethesda, Md., to play in the National High School Invitational wouldn’t have any bearing on how they performed in the opening round.

The result?

Kabongo’s Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and Rivers’ Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) squads both got sent packing on the first day, while Cook and the Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Warriors made it to the title game and lost in double overtime to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.).

All three later conceded that fatigue from a week’s worth of Windy City grinding played a major role in their teams' ultimate demise.

“I hear all that, and that makes sense, but I’m gonna say exactly what they said,” said Ashley, a forward at Findlay Prep who suited up for the West in the McDonald’s All-American Game. “I’m gonna say it won’t affect my game in the least.”

Added Ashley’s Findlay Prep and West teammate Anthony Bennett: “We do this. We will be ready to go out there and do what we’ve got to do at the NHSI, no question.”

We’ll find out Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPNU) when the top-seeded Pilots take on No. 8 Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in the quarterfinals at Georgetown Prep.

“See, what most people don’t understand is that the schedule we’ve been on this week isn’t even as bad as our AAU schedule,” said Ashley, an Arizona signee. “It’s way crazier during the summer. Three games a day; play at 10 p.m. one night and 8 a.m. the next morning. This is nothing.”

Their “nothing” would be overwhelming for many high school players, but at Findlay Prep, even with a lighter load, the travel schedule is more Division I college than high school.

“What’s crazy is we haven’t even traveled as much as we did in the past,” said Bennett, a forward who is ranked No. 7 in the ESPNU 100. “We still play in the big tournaments, but the schedule hasn’t been as hectic this year.”

That’s something that “shocked” Ashley, who transferred to Findlay from Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) for his senior season.

“I expected the travel to be a little worse,” said Ashley, who is ranked No. 10 in the ESPNU 100. “Because it’s ‘Findlay’ and all that. It hasn’t been that bad at all. This week may have been the craziest week, travel-wise, for us.”

Ashley and Bennett will hop on a plane Thursday morning and plan to head straight to the shootaround. After that, both said they plan to grab a long nap before tonight’s game.

“We’ll just rest up and relax as much as possible,” Bennett said. “We know how important this tournament is and we know what happened last year, so we won’t have a repeat of that.”

Kabongo, who just finished his freshman season running the point at Texas, said that the Pilots should be playing “with an enormous chip on their shoulders” after falling so early in last year’s NHSI.

“We fell short of the Findlay standard,” Kabongo said. “They will have to come out and play hard to regain that. I know they will.”

Even if that means they won’t get a shot at knocking off Oak Hill, the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50. Warriors coach Steve Smith opted not to participate in the NHSI this season for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2009 due to the timing.

The Warriors just returned from a 12-day trip to China on March 20 and immediately went on spring break.

“As a competitor we would’ve loved to see Oak Hill because they’re No. 1 and we’re No. 2,” Ashley said. “But they went and did their thing in China, so it’s all good. We’re focused on what’s in front of us and that’s Coolidge. That’s all we’re worried about.”

To the casual observer, a No. 1 facing a No. 8 is a gift, but Bennett was quick to point out that such thinking was “fool’s gold.”

“I don’t know a whole lot about Coolidge, but I know you’ve got to be good to get in this tournament,” Bennett said. “Only big-time teams get in this.”

Added Ashley: “This isn’t the NCAA tournament. It’s not like a 16-seed playing the top seed. This is a small tournament and everyone is elite. You can’t come in and expect a blowout. I’m not guaranteeing a championship, but what I will say is that we’ll be giving a championship effort.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Inside the FAB 50: NHSI scenarios

March, 28, 2012
This week's National High School Invitational in Bethesda, Md., should have a major impact on the final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, which will be released on Monday, April 2.

Here are the possible scenarios being studied this week by the FAB 50 compilers as the NHSI gets underway:

1. If top-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) convincingly wins three games and possibly avenges its only season loss to No. 6 seed La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), the Pilots might have an argument to jump idle FAB 50 No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) for the top ranking spot.

Findlay Prep enters the NHSI with a 29-1 record and is No. 2 in the FAB 50. The lone loss was by 67-66 on Dec. 29 at the Mike Miller Classic in Sioux Falls, S. D. Findlay Prep and La Lumiere are in opposite brackets starting Thursday at the NHSI and two wins each would place them in the title game.

La Lumiere is matched with No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and Findlay takes on No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in the quarterfinals.

Findlay won the first two NHSI titles in 2009 and 2010 before Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) captured the 2011 title.

2. If Montrose repeats as the NHSI champion, the Mustangs could move up from No. 9 to No. 6. They wouldn’t be able to jump past No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) due to a head-to-head loss, but No. 6 Simeon (Chicago) suffered its only loss to NHSI participant Findlay Prep.

3. La Lumiere enters the NHSI ranked No. 23 in the FAB 50 but could fall out of the top 25 with a first-round loss to Montverde. The reason? The Lakers' schedule isn't favorable for ranking purposes outside of the win over Findlay. The Lakers not only lost to Oak Hill by 77-59 but also to a four-loss Elgin (Elgin, Ill.) team ranked 16th in the Chicago metro area. The Lakers don't own any other wins over nationally or regionally ranked teams outside of the Findlay upset.

4. Another NHSI team that could drop out of the top 25 with a sub-par showing this week could be No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), which faces No. 5 seed Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) in the quarterfinals.

St. Benedict's enters the event ranked No. 15 in the FAB 50 and has only one season win over a FAB 50 team, No. 46 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), who they beat 64-61 in the consolation game at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Frostburg, Md. The Gray Bees lost to two other FAB 50 powers -- No. 3 St. Anthony 51-50 and No. 14 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) 64-49. St. Benedict's did defeat East Region No. 12 Plainfield (Plainfield, N.J.) 67-65.

5. Ely, ranked No. 16 in the FAB 50, might not drop as much with a loss to St. Benedict's since it owns a win over No. 21 Salesian (Richmond, Calif.).

6. Another team that probably would not drop far with an NHSI loss is FAB 50 No. 12 Montverde, which owns five victories over FAB 50-ranked teams. The Florida private school defeated No. 38 Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) twice plus single wins over No. 16 Ely, No. 21 Salesian and No. 29 Lake Wales (Lake Wales, Fla.).

7. Of course, the FAB 50 could have some major reshuffling if unranked Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) or Coolidge win at the NHSI. Both are ranked No. 19 in their own regions -- Ravenscroft in the Southeast and Coolidge in the East, but not in the national listings. They’d be pulling off major upsets if they win on Thursday since Coolidge is facing No. 2 Findlay Prep while Ravenscroft is taking on No. 9 Montrose Christian.

FAB 50 Spotlight Player of the Week
Aaron Gordon, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.)

It might be safe to say that the 6-foot-8 junior point forward is the best player from Northern California since Jason Kidd went to St. Joseph of Alameda in the early 1990s.

Gordon put on a show in the CIF Division II state championship last Friday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. In leading the FAB 50 No. 35 Monarchs past La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 78-57, Gordon poured in 33 points (one of the top 10 best ever in a CIF state final) and grabbed 20 rebounds. He fell one rebound short of the Division II title game record that he himself set with 21 last year when Mitty won its first CIF state crown.

Gordon is the younger brother of University of New Mexico standout Drew Gordon and averaged nearly 24 points per game for the season.

Doors to FAB 50 for the season probably closed

Unless there are major upsets at the NHSI, which would be either No. 2 Findlay Prep or No. 9 Montrose Christian losing in their first games, all 50 teams for this year’s final rankings of the FAB 50 seem settled.

Longtime football powerhouse John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.) assured itself of its first final national basketball ranking when Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) won the New York Federation title game Sunday over previous No. 48 Mount Vernon. The Patriots happen to own a win over Boys & Girls and also beat Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.) twice, including once in the Class 2A state final.

Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) grabbed the No. 49 slot this week. Despite nine losses, the Wolverines won their fourth straight Class AAAAA state crown. They played a brutal national schedule and possibly could be even higher in the FAB 50, but one loss was to Riverside Academy and that puts John Curtis Christian higher.

Getting a New York team into the 50th spot also is always a good thing. Boys & Girls ended up with wins over every one of the four New York teams that beat the Kangaroos during the season -- 3-1 vs. Lincoln, 2-2 vs. Thomas Jefferson, 1-1 vs. St. Raymond’s and 1-1 vs. South Shore.

Muhammad wins dunk contest in style

March, 26, 2012

CHICAGO -- There was a strong sense of anticipation for Monday's POWERADE Jam Fest, as the curious crowd wondered how the three female contestants would fare in the slam dunk contest.

One of the female dunkers -- 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Breanna Stewart of Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) -- successfully threw it down. But in the end, it was her Wootten POY male counterpart -- Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) -- who ended up the winner.

Shabazz Muhammad
Henny Ray Abrams/McDonald'sShabazz Muhammad won the POWERADE Jam Fest Slam Dunk contest in style Monday.
The No. 2 recruit in the ESPNU 100 threw down four perfect dunks over two rounds of competition. In the championship round, he bested Archie Goodwin of Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) by two points (140-138).

Muhammad got assists from North Carolina-bound point guard Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) on both of his final round dunks. First, Paige threw the ball off the backboard and Muhammad flushed it with two hands before doing his best Cam Newton imitation with the Clark Kent jersey rip to ignite the crowd. Needing a 69 on his second attempt to win the contest, Muhammad got a perfect pass thrown off the side of the backboard by Paige and dunked it with power.

“Just to be mentioned with names like (2003 winner) LeBron James and guys like that is an honor,” Muhammad said. “I was going to do the behind-the-back dunk, but Archie (Goodwin) did a really good job with that. I’m glad that I was able to come away with the win.”

Of the three female contestants, Stewart was the only one to advance to the finals. Looking to become the first female winner since Candace Parker in 2004, Stewart advanced by throwing down a two-handed dunk off a pass from Shaq Goodwin of Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) who was the designated passer for the female contestants. Stewart, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, received a perfect 70 for her first dunk. The crowd appreciated her second effort even more when she threw one down with her left hand and received another 70. She couldn't repeat those performances in the finals, however, leaving Muhammad to raise the trophy.

Although Muhammad defeated three female and four males contestants, he's only considered the second-best dunker on his high school team. That title goes to UNLV recruit Demetris Morant.

"Not bad for the second best dunker on the team," Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "No matter what Shabazz does, he tries to go out and be the best and win. I think this is the first dunk contest he's ever been in and of course he won it."

Muhammad is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UCLA, USC and UNLV and is scheduled to make his college decision on April 11.

Rivalry Commences

Strake Jesuit (Houston) shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When he saw that he’d be facing Paige in the finals of the POWERADE Jam Fest 3-point contest he couldn’t help but think about the potential for early bragging rights.

Sulaimon, a Duke signee, and Paige, a North Carolina signee, will be arch enemies next season on Tobacco Road. For now, Sulaimon can say that his score of 18 was good enough to be crowned 3-point champ over Paige.

“That made it even better,” Sulaimon said. “The Duke-UNC rivalry is big so I liked getting the win over him.”

Sulaimon also knocked off Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.) guard Morgan Tuck in the boys-vs-girls bonus round. Sulaimon scored 12, while Tuck scored 10.

No Place Like Home

Tyler Lewis may have won the Jam Fest Skills Competition, completing the course in just 31.2 seconds, but all he cared about was the fact that he was back in the United States.

Lewis and his Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) team played nine international games in China from March 7-19 and went 8-1. The Warriors finished their high school season No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 with an unblemished 44-0 record.

“We lost the first game that we played over there, but it had a lot to do with our travel schedule,” said Lewis, an NC State signee. “We ended up playing that team again and beating them, so we got even. We had a good time.”

Just not when it was time to eat.

“Food was horrible,” said Lewis. “Even the places that we have over here like McDonald’s were bad. ... I’m just glad to be back and eating good ol' American food.”

More Than A Game

Long after the 2012 McDonald's game is complete and the players have returned home, they'll have some great memories of their time in Chicago.

The highlight of the event for many so far was Sunday's visit to a regional Ronald McDonald House. Amile Jefferson of Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.) and a few other All-Americans were also able to visit the Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago across the street from the Ronald McDonald House and it's something he said he'll always remember.

At the hospital Jefferson met Jordan Chesney, an 18-year-old who has underdone multiple brain surgeries.

"They told us there was something wrong with his brain and we couldn't shake his hand too hard," Jefferson said. "I wanted to understand the issue and make him remember me because many of us were unprepared for that. The time I spent with him will always inspire me."

Jefferson, who competed in the 3-point contest and the skills competition at the Jam Fest, understands the unique opportunities his physical gifts have afforded him.

"It was a chance for us to give back," Jefferson said. "We come in and the kids light up and smile. To be able to give them that through the game of basketball is great."

NHSI preview: Montverde Academy

March, 22, 2012
Team: No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 21-3, No. 12 (No. 2 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Kevin Boyle (1st year at school; spent previous 23 years at St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J., where he won more than 400 games and coached many top players, including 2011 NBA No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving)

Key Players:

Michael Frazier
A transfer from Plant (Tampa, Fla.), the 6-foot-3 shooting guard leads the team in scoring and is a leading contender to be Mr. Basketball in Florida. An ESPNHS Second Team Underclass All-American last season, Frazier is rated the No. 3 prospect in the state of Florida by RecruitingNation and has signed with the University of Florida. Frazier was MVP of the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament in January. He scored 16 points in the team’s 49-40 triumph over POWERADE FAB 50 ranked Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) in the title game. In the team's loss to Memphis Ridgeway (Memphis, Tenn.), Frazier went for 27 points, so they'll look to him for a big scoring night against a tough La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) team.

Kasey Hill
He’s regarded as one of the elite point guards in the nation among juniors. The 6-foot-1 floor general is No. 18 in the ESPNU 60 and has committed to Florida, where he figures to join current teammate Michael Frazier on the roster for the Gators’ 2013-14 season. Hill was MVP last summer at the Adidas Invitational Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis after he led the Florida Rams AAU squad to the championship. Hill began his prep career at Mount Dora Bible (Eustis, Fla.) and was a highly-regarded by Kevin Sutton, Montverde Academy's former coach. Hill had been a ESPNHS Underclass All-American the past two seasons.

Anthony “J.P.” Cortesia
The No. 64 player in the ESPNU 100 was one of the Eagles’ most versatile talents from the first game of the season through the Montverde Academy tourney. The 6-foot-8 power forward will play next at Ole Miss. A native of Venezuela, Cortesia is not known for being a physical player, but with La Lumiere's towering size, he's going to have to battle down low and come up with key rebounds.

Note: Six-foot-10 sophomore Dakari Johnson, who followed coach Kevin Boyle to Montverde from St. Patrick of New Jersey and was the 2011 ESPNHS National Freshman of the Year, had to sit out this season due to the transfer.

Road to NHSI:

There’s little doubt the Eagles were the best team in Florida this season, regardless of school classification. They played a number of top teams in the state and when the Florida High School Athletic Association state playoffs were complete, Montverde had wins over the following champions: Hialeah Gardens (8A), Ely (7A), Lake Wales (5A) and Orlando Christian Prep (2A).

They did lose an in-state game to Hagerty of Oviedo, but were not at full strength at the time. The squad’s only other losses were to Ridgeway of Memphis and Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas). Both of those teams were top 15 ranked in the FAB 50 at the time and Grace Prep went on to win a state title of its own.

Even with those two losses, Montverde Academy had an 8-2 record against FAB 50-ranked teams and in its 24 games they outscored the competition by an average of 16.3 points.

Inside Scoop:

Boyle may not have coached in the NHSI before but has been around big-time basketball for many years. At St. Patrick, he coached Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2010-2011 Mr. Basketball USA Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, currently starring at Kentucky. Boyle also will be coaching the USA team on April 7 at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.

Perhaps Boyle’s biggest challenge is getting players ready to face a quality first-round opponent in the NHSI like La Lumiere without having been in a game since Feb. 4.

NHSI preview: Ely

March, 22, 2012
Team: No. 5 seed Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 30-2, No. 16 (No. 3 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Melvin Randall (11th year at school, 429-133 career record including eight previous seasons at Deerfield Beach)

Key Players:

Clide Geffrard
A 6-foot-6 senior forward, Geffrard came on strong toward the end of the season. He pumped in 33 points and hauled down 14 rebounds in the Class 7A state championship game win over Oak Ridge (Orlando). He also had 22 points and nine rebounds in the semifinals as Ely stormed through the state final four bracket. For the season, Geffrard averaged 17.4 points per game and shot 63 percent from the field. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. The unsigned senior could be the best player at Ely since current Florida Gator standout Kenny Boynton, who led the Tigers to a state title in 2007. “We’ve had a good ride with Clide,” Randall said. “He has been very consistent and one of the leaders we’ve depended on. Not a verbal leader-type but leads by example. He’s extremely competitive."

Josephus Bell
Bell was solid at the end of the season just as Geffrard was, but his most eye-opening outings took place earlier in the season. The 6-foot-2 senior guard lit it up for 26 points when Ely beat FAB 50-ranked Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) at the City of Palms tournament and had 22 the same week in a win against Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.). The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.1 points and three assists per game for the season. He's capable of big scoring outputs, but if he doesn't hit his average, Ely could struggle against the talented backcourt of St. Benedict's.

Krishaun Myers
Highlighting a third player for the Tigers is tough because so many players (including Anterrio Smith and Kahlil Thomas) are capable of stepping up and getting into double figures. Myers was third on the team in scoring, however, at 8.7 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior guard’s best performances included 23 points against Constitution (Philadelphia, Pa.) and 27 points against Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He also plays good defense (1.8 spg), and that will be key since both Ely and St. Benedict's rely on their backcourt to score. “There was any of five or six guys who could have scored 20 points per night at other schools,” Randall said. “Thomas, Myers and Smith were just outstanding and all have their roles. We call Smith ‘Locksmith’ because he’s very aggressive on defense. Tough to get around.”

Road to NHSI:
Ely hopes to make a similar run in the NHSI as Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) did last year and comes from a similar pedigree. Guided by a veteran coach and coming off of an FHSAA state title, the Tigers have lost only to teams that are higher-ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 than they are – Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) and fellow NHSI participant Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.). While the loss to Gorman was by just one point (58-57), the loss to Montverde was more lopsided (67-53). “We can’t go into the NHSI and go off of what other teams from Florida may have done,” Randall said. “It’s exciting to know that Dwyer won its first game last year, but we’re going there to play our attacking style and see what happens.”

Rolling to the Class 7A state title was impressive, but more important to the team snagging the FHSAA’s guaranteed berth into the NHSI were wins over Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s. Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s have been nationally ranked, with Salesian in the top 20 as of March 20. Both losses and both big wins took place at the City of Palms tournament in Florida.

With Dwyer's impressive showing at last year's tournament, Ely won't sneak up on a hungry St. Benedict's team that truly feels it is the second-best team in the field. “It helps a great deal (coming into the NHSI) that we know we’ve already played some of the top teams in the country and have fared well,” Randall said. “With the Bishop Gorman game, we had a chance to win at the end and missed a layup.”

Inside Scoop:

Randall and the rest of the team thought there was a good chance that Ely was going to be chosen for the NHSI. “The kids are real excited and know that this is an out-of-state tourney,” he said. “But it’s not a field trip.”

The Tigers have already played a strong New Jersey team – Gill St. Bernard’s – but they assume that the St. Benedict’s team they are playing in the first-round of the NHSI is going to be harder to beat.

“We know they have a lot of great players,” Randall said. “Our preparation is that we are going to have to defend. It’s a well-rounded team and we hope we can slow them down.”

NHSI preview: Ravenscroft

March, 22, 2012
Team: No. 7 seed Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 31-3, NR (No. 19 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Kevin Billerman (12th year at school, 279-70 career record

Key Players:

Madison Jones
Jones initiates the Ravens’ offense and brings a gritty, tough element that becomes infectious as the game progresses. Jones averages 16.5 points, 6.5 assists and 3.4 steals per game and serves as the team’s vocal leader on the floor. “He’s a true point guard and he just controls our team in all areas,” Billerman said. “He’s a great leader.”

Anton Gill
Gill is a freak of an athlete and, at 6-foot-4, will have one of the best high-wire acts at the NHSI. Gill, a Louisville commit, averages 18.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. When the Ravens are in need of a bucket to break a scoring drought, Gill is the player whose number Billerman typically calls.

Marcus Bryan
Bryan, a 6-foot-8 center, is the Ravens’ low post presence and averages 14.3 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. Bryan is versatile enough to step out and consistently knock down the 17-footer, making him a tough draw for most opposing big men.

Road to NHSI:

Ravenscroft knocked off North Carolina powerhouse Christ School (Arden, N.C.) twice in convincing fashion and also won the High School OT Holiday Invitational in December. In that tournament the Ravens knocked off Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) and United Faith (Charlotte, N.C.). Ravenscroft also knocked off Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) to claim the state title.

“We beat all of the top private school teams in our state,” Billerman said. “The guys really stepped up and met every challenge.”

Inside Scoop:

The Ravens lockup defensively and are almost always hounding the opposition with a suffocating man-to-man set. Offensively, the Ravens remain in attack mode at all times whether it’s pushing the ball up the court in transition or running one of the 16 plays in the halfcourt set.

“With Anton and Madison scoring a lot of points, obviously, we shoot a lot of jump shots,” Billerman said. “Both of them are very smart players and they pick their spots well.”

The Ravens average 71 points per game.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

NHSI preview: Calvin Coolidge

March, 22, 2012
Team: No. 8 seed Calvin Coolidge (Washington, D.C.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 29-7, (No. 19 in the East)
Head Coach: Vaughn Jones (5th year at school, 153-40 career record)

Key Players:

Khalen Cumberlander
The 6-foot-3 senior guard is the Colts’ leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game to go with five rebounds and 5.3 assists. Cumberlander, a Central Connecticut State signee, is the Colts’ floor general, but also hunts his shots and typically has no problem finding them with more than 1,000 points in his career. Cumberlander is an exceptional athlete who gets into the lane at will.

DeShaun Morman
Morman is arguably the toughest matchup problem for opposing teams because of his relentless athletic ability. He averages 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, five assists and five steals per game and has turned in more highlights for the Colts than any other player. Morman dropped 30 points in the Colts’ big win over Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) this season and has led the Colts in scoring over their last 10 games.

Maurice Jeffers
Jeffers anchors the paint for the Colts and pumps in 10 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks per game despite only playing organized basketball for four years. Jeffers, a 6-foot-9 forward who is signed to Delaware, is the king of intangibles and has a knack for being wherever the ball is at the right time.

Road to NHSI:

The Colts are riding a 20-game winning streak and had one of their most impressive wins over NHSI No. 2 seed Montrose Christian in early February. That gave Coolidge an incredible amount of confidence to finish out the season strong. The Colts went on to win the DCIAA league title for the first time in 25 years. Coolidge will face Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), who is ranked No. 9 in the POWERADE FAB 50, Tuesday for the city title.

“We’ve had our plate full this year,” Jones said. “But our guys have really risen to the challenge and battled hard. I definitely feel like we’re one of the top teams in the country, and that’s what we want to prove in the NHSI.”

Inside Scoop:

You better lace up your track shoes when facing Coolidge, as the Colts push the ball up the floor every chance they get. With exceptional guards like Morman and Cumberlander, the Colts effectively utilize the dribble-drive offense and make 11 threes on average every game. Omar Roberts and Sam Briggs are the Colts' most deadly 3-point marksmen.

“We’re definitely not shy about letting the shots go up,” Jones said. “We just attack at all times and just try and bring it to the opposing team on the offensive end. We also defend really well.”

The Colts hold teams to just 55 points per game and score 78 points per game.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.