Findlay Prep cruises into NHSI semis
March, 29, 2012
By Ronnie Flores | ESPN.com
BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 1 seed Findlay Prep's (Henderson, Nev.) 79-44 victory over No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in Thursday's quarterfinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.
Overview: Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck didn't start forwards Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley, McDonald's All-Americans who played in Chicago on Wednesday night. It hardly mattered as the Pilots were just too big and talented. Nearly every field goal Coolidge made was a chore and Coolidge was out rebounded, 60-29.
After leading 18-12 at the end of the first quarter, Findlay Prep doubled up on the Colts by the middle of the second quarter and never looked back. "Rebounding was the difference in the game," Coolidge coach Mike Jones said. "Our speed usually gives top teams problems, but we just missed the shots we needed to make."
Turning Point: When Findlay Prep took the floor and jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Pilots quickly established it would take a near miracle for the Washington D.C. Public Schools champs to stay within single digits. Outside of two spectacular lay-ups by Central Connecticut State recruit Khalen Cumberlander (team-high 13 points) that cut Coolidge's deficit to three points (12-9) midway through the first quarter, once-beaten Findlay Prep was firmly in control. To put it into perspective, Coolidge lost to POWERADE FAB 50 No. 13 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) in the Abe Polin City Title Game on March 20 by six points, 70-64.
Key Player: Bennett. When he entered the game with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter it changed its complexion. Bennett, ranked No. 7 in the ESPNU 100, played 13 minutes in the McDonald's Game. While Ashley's fatigue from his 15 minutes in that game, combined with the travel from Chicago to Maryland, caused him to play sluggishly, Bennett was dialed in. The unsigned recruit played inspired on the defensive end and was a difficult match up for Coolidge's defense. He constantly drew fouls underneath and finished plays in transition.
Bennett finished with a game-high 23 points in 18 minutes. He made 14-of-17 free throws and also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. "I didn't want to have the same thing that happened to us last year (a quarterfinal loss) happen again," Bennett said. "I want to play for the opportunity to win a national championship."
Key Stat: Findlay Prep made 18-of-23 free throws in the first half when they built a 43-25 lead. Coolidge just didn't have the size inside to contend with the two-time NHSI champions. When the Pilots got fouled, they went to the line and converted to create separation. For the game, Findlay Prep went 31-of-43 from the charity stripe, whereas Coolidge went 8-of-15.
Up Next: The Pilots, ranked No. 2 in the FAB 50, will meet No. 15 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) in tomorrow's second boys' semifinal at 1:30 PM ET. All the top seeds and higher ranked team won in their openers.
Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN