FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his everyday life, Julius Randle is as carefree and as happy-go-lucky as they come, but in basketball, he’s intense, obsessive and never lets anything roll off his back, least of all losses.
That’s why it makes sense that Randle took it personal when Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), ranked No. 15 in the POWERADE FAB 50, “embarrassed” him and his Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), No. 42, teammates by 15 on Dec. 15 on ESPNU.
“I was so mad after that loss,” said Randle, a junior forward who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. “I knew I had to move on from it, but it was always in the back of my head. When I saw we were playing them again, there was no way I was gonna lose. No way. I wanted to beat them worse than they beat us.”
Randle scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists to help Prestonwood rout Grace Prep 62-42 and claim the City of Palms Classic title Wednesday night at Bishop Verot High School here.
Prestonwod became the first-ever Texas team to win the City of Palms.
“It felt so good to get this win against that team,” said Randle, who was named MVP. “They are really a great team. We knew that we’d have to jump on them early and never let up.”
The Lions used a balanced attack to claim an early 13-5 lead behind stifling defensive pressure which forced six first-quarter turnovers.
When Randle was forced to sit early in the second quarter, Mitchell came up with big buckets to extend the Lions’ lead. Then in the third quarter he scored eight points to put the game out of reach.
The Lions’ defensive pressure forced Grace Prep to shoot just 25 percent from the field.
“It was our best defensive effort of the year for sure,” Mitchell said. “We located the shooters really well and got into the passing lanes and pressured the ball. We were just clicking tonight. We beat a great team.”
Randle said that having two Texas teams in the finals was a testament to the talent in the Lone Star State.
“We’ve got the best players in the country here in Texas, hands down,” Randle said. “Texas has typically been known as a football state, but people are starting to realize that we’ve also got the best players on the hardwood too.”