Najee Glass is on the fast track to superstardom

June, 21, 2012
6/21/12
10:00
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Najee GlassJohn Nepolitan ESPNHS/DyestatSt. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) senior sprinter Najee Glass is headed to Florida next fall with a national championship under his belt and an eye on the 2016 Olympics.
Almost all kids have something they hate — brussels sprouts, chores, homework, being pinched on the cheek. For 7-year-old Najee Glass, it was track.

"He would cry when I left him at practice," Trina Glass recalled with a laugh.

Najee's first race didn't start off much better, as he darted out of the blocks with reckless abandon. Had this been a short sprint, like the 200, that strategy would've been fine. But maintaining such pace in the 400 is downright crazy, especially for a first-timer. His coaches tried yelling for him to slow down. His mom, a former 400 competitor herself, even tried running alongside the track to get his attention. But there was no stopping Glass.

"I was just running and trying to get it over with, so I just sprinted the whole way until I won," said Glass, who preferred football at the time. "Everybody said 'He's going to die, he's going to die,' but actually I didn't die."

If anything, a runner was born on that day, one who has gone on to win national titles, earn international gold and become one of New Jersey's greatest sprinters while at St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.).

And believe it or not, Glass' technique hasn't changed all that much since his track debut.

"His ability to run fast for a long, long period of time is amazing," St. Peter's Prep assistant coach Chris Caulfield said. "He can really hit other gears at the end of races that other runners can't."

Caulfield would know. On Glass' first day of indoor track at St. Peter's Prep, he shattered the freshman school record in the 400. In the next two years, Glass went on to set more new marks, becoming the first sophomore to win the 400 at the Meet of Champions before breaking the meet record in the same event with a time of 46.43 seconds as a junior.

Yet for as elusive as Glass was on the local scene, there was one goal he couldn’t seem to catch — a national title.

Last year, in the span of three months, Glass finished second in the 400 at the indoor and outdoor New Balance Nationals. What’s more, the indoor loss came by the slimmest of margins: one-hundredth of a second

Still, neither proved more frustrating for Glass than what transpired at the New Balance Games in January 2011. Despite running the odd distance of 500, Glass used his typical end-of-the-race burst to surge past Columbus (Bronx, N.Y.) runner Strymar Livingston and take first in a national-record time of 1:02.22. But following a protest from the Columbus coach and a rare review by track officials, the record was revoked two days later due to a lane violation by Glass.

“When people started saying I cheated, that really took a toll on me,” Glass said. “I was heartbroken over what people were saying on the message boards because it’s not like I ran over the line on purpose.”

After having a national title and a 27-year-old record snatched from his grasp, Glass admitted to running with a “chip on his shoulder.” But this weight of motivation only seemed to make him faster.

“After that happened, I saw a new side of him,” Caulfield said. “He was completely determined to turn it into a positive by running his best and getting that national title.”

Glass gained some solace by running a leg on the record-setting U.S. medley team at the World Youth Championships in France last summer. And after shocking the world, Glass shocked his family by giving up football, his first love.

“Everybody said, ‘What?!’ because he had just come from a national 7-on-7 combine and done well and we all knew how much he liked football,” Trina said. “But I think after having that international experience and with the friends he made, he realized the great opportunities and future he has in track.”

The extra training he gained during the fall as well as the pent-up emotions from his past disappointments all came to a head at the indoor New Balance Nationals in March.

With 150 meters to go and Timberview’s (Arlington, Texas) Aldrich Bailey a step ahead of him, Glass made a move to the inside, giving him just enough room to blaze down the homestretch for a narrow win and the 400 national crown. Glass’ time of 46.57 also set a new New Jersey record and placed fourth all-time in U.S. history.

“After all I’d been through, it meant a lot more for me to win that title,” said Glass, who admitted to shedding a few post-victory tears. “I felt like this was something I deserved based on all the work I had put in and it paid off.”

Perhaps fittingly, this victory proved to be the last major triumph in Glass’ prep career. A hamstring injury kept him from competing in last week’s Meet of Champions and having a shot at becoming the first boy to win three straight 400 titles.

“Everything happens for a reason and I’m very happy with getting my national title this year,” Glass said. “Maybe it was God’s way of saying to rest and prepare for what’s next.”

This fall, Glass will move on to compete at Florida, a powerhouse program that has won the last two NCAA Indoor Championships. And while his coaches are sad to see their best athlete graduate, they are more excited to see what’s in store for Glass.

“He’s the best runner to come through St. Peter’s Prep and with his will to compete and win, I believe he’ll be at the 2016 Olympics,” St. Peter’s Prep longtime head coach Michael Burgess said. “The kid is raw and if you think he’s great now, the boy will be a monster at the next level when he puts together his talent with the correct mechanics.

“Yep, you’re going to be hearing more about him.”

Final N.J. POWERADE baseball rankings

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
1:49
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After games on Sunday, June 10

The regular season was indeed a wild one, with several new contenders emerging, followed by a postseason that saw Hillsborough go on a Cinderella run to the state title game. But in the end, the 2012 campaign ended up looking a lot like the close of the 2011 season, with two teams repeating.

Gloucester Catholic avenged an earlier loss to Don Bosco Prep by knocking off the Ironmen by the score of 4-1 in the Non-Public A championship. The Rams have now won three straight crowns (the last two coming in Non-Public B), a state-record 16 titles and are back in the POWERADE FAB 50 at No. 41.

In Group 4, Manalapan shook off an inconsistent regular season to secure their second straight crown while ending Hillsborough's surprising postseason run with a 2-0 victory.

Here are the final rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Gloucester Catholic 27-4 (2)
Avenged a loss to Don Bosco Prep earlier this season by knocking off the Ironmen in the Non-Public A title game, 4-1. The Rams have won three straight state titles (last two in Non-Public B) and a state-record 16 titles.

2. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 24-4 (1)
Ironmen fell to Gloucester Catholic 4-1 in the Non-Public A title game.

3. Marist (Bayonne) 24-5 (NR)
Kim Rodriguez hit a walk-off RBI single to push Marist to a 11-10 comeback win against Newark Academy in the Non-Public B championship. It was the third straight walk-off win for the Royal Knights and their first state title since 1991.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly baseball rankings.

N.J. POWERADE Week 9 baseball rankings

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
2:55
PM ET
After games on Sunday, June 3

It's down to the final four, meaning a state champion will be decided this week. Along with the usual suspects remaining (Don Bosco Prep, which is now No. 38 in the POWERADE FAB 50, and Gloucester Catholic), two teams to watch are Delbarton, which knocked off Seton Hall Prep for a spot in the Non-Public North A final against Don Bosco, and Hillsborough, which beat Hunterdon Central to continue its improbable postseason run.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 23-3 (1)
Ironmen beat St. Joseph (Mont.) 2-0 to advance to Non-Public North A final against Delbarton on Tuesday.

2. Gloucester Catholic 24-4 (3)
Rams downed Bishop Eustace 4-0 to set up matchup with St. Augustine Prep in Non-Public South A final.

3. Delbarton (Morristown) 21-6 (7)
Knocked off Seton Hall Prep to advance to Non-Public North A final against top-ranked Don Bosco Prep.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 8 POWERADE baseball rankings: Upsets galore

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
4:43
PM ET
After games on Saturday, May 26

This past week was unkind to a number of ranked teams and strong contenders for the state title. Jackson, Westfield, Ramapo, Washington Township, Middlesex, Wall, Millville, Notre Dame and Montclair all saw their seasons come to a stunning end, while Sayreville needed extra innings to survive its matchup with Phillipsburg.

Don Bosco Prep held on to the top spot after cruising to a second straight Bergen County Tournament title, which pushed them to No. 39 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 21-3 (1)
Ironmen shut out Paramus 9-0 to secure their second straight Bergen County Tournament title. Next up: Pope John.

2. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange) 22-3 (3)
Pirates lost to Nutley. Will open play in state tournament against Bergen Catholic.

3. Gloucester Catholic 21-4 (4)
Rams beat Kingsway, Holy Spirit and Buena to enter state playoff matchup against Holy Cross on five-game win streak.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Don Bosco Prep

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
9:59
AM ET
TBD EditorJeff Skopin/ESPNNewYorkDon Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) won its sixth straight state title last season to finish No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 for the second time in three years.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)

2011 Season: 11-0, Non-Public Group IV state champion, No. 1 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. The Ironmen have an almost unmatched resume in recent seasons, winning six straight state titles, achieving three consecutive unbeaten seasons and earning two FAB 50 national crowns in the last three years. Don Bosco will take a 46-game win streak -- the second-longest active winning streak in the nation -- into the season. This year, the Ironmen will once again face a difficult schedule. Season-opening opponent Gilman (Baltimore) finished No. 21 in the FAB 50, while St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) was the 2010 FAB 50 champ and Alta (Sandy, Utah) is a strong program. Don Bosco could move up the FAB 50 ladder with early-season success against the non-Jersey foes, but it faces its biggest task in recent years. The Ironmen must replace several talented starters, including ESPNHS All-American and Rutgers recruit Darius Hamilton and sophomore running back/cornerback Jabrill Peppers, an ESPNHS Underclass All-American who transferred to Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.). While coach Greg Toal’s track record has to be respected in the preseason FAB 50 positioning, top 10 might just be too high in the early going.

Team Strengths: The major strength of this fall’s squad will be on defense, especially along the line, which returns standouts Alquadin Muhammad, who’s the No. 145 recruit in the ESPN 150, and Razohnn Gross. Also expected back is junior linebacker Spencer Scannell and junior defensive backs Isaiah Hill and Justin Wimberly. The Ironmen won the FAB 50 crown with a first-year starter, Mike Yankovich, at quarterback. They’ll have to do the same this year. Sophomore Eric Meile could be in line for the starting nod this fall. Sophomore running back Aaron Guzman could be another key offensive performer.

Another New Jersey team to watch: Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) could be the team that ends of the domination of Don Bosco. Bergen Catholic’s losing streak against the Ironmen is 10 games, but they did lead after three quarters in the first of last year’s two losses. The Crusaders, however, have the returning personnel to get the job done. The veterans for coach Nunzio Campanile, a former Don Bosco coach, include quarterback Jon Germano, who passed for 2,359 yards and 31 scores for the 8-3 team; wide receiver John Tsimis, who caught 50 passes for 754 yards and 11 scores; top rusher James Dawson; and linebackers Parker Tobia and Dan Grasso.

N.J. Week 7 POWERADE baseball rankings

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
4:44
PM ET
After games on Saturday, May 19

The playoffs get underway this week, so throw out the regular season records and even the playoff seeds. One game can make or break a team's season at this point.

Don Bosco Prep, the No. 40 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, enters as the favorite in the Non-Public A bracket, but the Ironmen must get by the likes of Seton Hall Prep and Gloucester Catholic. Likewise, the Group 4 tournament is loaded with contenders Jackson, Steinert and Washington Township.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) 19-3 (1)
Closed out regular season with 10-1 win against River Dell and enter Non-Public, North A tournament as No. 2 seed.

2. Jackson 21-2 (3)
Won four games last week, entering the Group 4 Central bracket as No. 2 seed and a strong contender to win state title.

3. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange) 22-2 (5)
Pirates rolled to four wins last week and snagged top seed in Non-Public, North A tourney.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 6 POWERADE baseball rankings

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
2:03
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After games on Saturday, May 12

Two new teams enter the top 10 this week, in part thanks to a tough stretch for St. Joseph (Mont.), which has lost three of its last five games. One squad to take advantage was Hunterdon Central. The Red Devils downed High Point and Phillipsburg with junior Jeremy Ake smashing three home runs, a double, a triple, six RBIs and stealing three bases last week.

Don Bosco Prep remains atop the rankings after tacking two more wins onto its record. The Ironmen moved up a spot to No. 43 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 18-3 (1)
Ironmen have hit their stride, tacking on wins against DePaul and Dumont.

2. Gloucester Catholic 17-3 (2)
Rams bounced back from loss to Don Bosco by beating Glassboro and Deptford by a combined count of 18-1.

3. Jackson 17-2 (5)
Beat Barnegat and Toms River North last week.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

ESPNHS Baseball Players of the Week

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
10:15
AM ET
(After games of Tuesday, May 8)

One player is chosen from each region of the country. The only other criteria is that no player will be chosen more than once during a season.

EAST

Rob Kaminsky, St. Joseph (Montvale, N.J.)
The junior left-handed pitcher recorded his third no-hitter of the season in a 5-0 shutout of Paramus (N.J.). Kaminsky fanned 16 batters and walked three in his gem and has 67 strikeouts in 34 innings for the regionally ranked Green Knights. Kaminsky, who is being recruited by several Division I programs, is on fire with three no-hitters and a one-hitter in his last four starts. He's 6-0 on the season.

SOUTHEAST

Toby Thomas, Fairhope (Ala.)
The senior standout led Fairhope to a sweep of Baker (Mobile, Ala.) in last week’s Class 6A state playoffs. In the first game, he pitched a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts and went 1-for-3 as the Pirates won 2-0. In the second game, he went 2-for-3 with a double in a 3-0 shutout. Earlier in the season, Thomas won the Jake Peavy MVP award at the BayBears High School Classic. He also went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in his team’s previous playoff game. For the season, Thomas began this week hitting .366 with 36 runs scored and 36 RBIs. On the mound, he was 10-0 with a 0.22 ERA.

MIDWEST

Josh Baker, University School (Milwaukee)
The senior left-handed pitcher/first baseman helped the unbeaten, regionally ranked Wildcats to four wins last week with his arm and bat. He hurled a no-hitter and one-hitter while allowing only one run with 23 strikeouts in 10 innings. The no-hitter was an 18-0, five-inning gem versus St. John's Northwest Military Academy (Delafield, Wis.). At the plate during the week, he went 9-for-12 with three homers and 13 runs batted in. He’s also an all-state infielder and was the Midwest Classic Conference Co-Player of the Year as a junior.

MIDLANDS

J.P. Seifried, Claremore (Claremore, Okla.)
In last week’s Class 5A regional tournament, Seifried led the Zebras to the title by going 9-for-14 with four doubles and six RBIs in three games. The three wins improved Claremore’s record to 30-4 and put the team on the bubble in this week’s Midlands Region rankings. According to the Tulsa World, Seifried dedicates every game to the memory of his mother, Brenda, who died four years ago from cancer.

WEST

Alex Jackson, Rancho Bernardo (San Diego)
Not happy with just a regular hitting streak, this talented sophomore catcher has now homered in three straight games. Jackson started the streak last week in a win against Westview of San Diego and then homered again later in the week against the same team. He hit another home run earlier this week as the Broncos beat Poway. Jackson, who has 11 homers for the season and is hitting .378, was the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year last season. He is the latest in a long line of top prospects to play for Rancho Bernardo coach Sam Blalock, who recently won his 800th game.

N.J. Week 5 POWERADE baseball rankings

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
6:15
PM ET
After games on Saturday May 5

The playoffs aren't quite here yet, but Garden State baseball fans got a glimpse of what the postseason could bring when Gloucester Catholic and Don Bosco Prep faced off last week. It appeared the top-ranked Rams were on their way to victory, but Joe Purritano erased the deficit by belting a three-run homer in the 10th inning for a 5-3 Don Bosco win.

The victory shoots the Ironmen to the top spot in the state and No. 44 slot in the POWERADE FAB 50. Gloucester Catholic remains in the national rankings at No. 50.

Just as impressive is the recent play of Rob Kaminsky. The St. Joseph (Mont.) has now thrown three no-hitters this season, the last being his gem in which he struck out 16 batters during a 5-0 win against Paramus last week.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 16-3 (4)
Ironmen jump back up to No. 1 and into the FAB 50 by knocking off Gloucester Catholic 5-3, thanks to Joe Purittano's three-run blast in the 10th. Another test looms this week in Poly Prep (N.Y.).

2. Gloucester Catholic 14-3 (1)
Rams fell to Don Bosco in extra innings and will certainly seek revenge should they meet again in the Non-Public A championship.

3. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange) 16-1 (3)
Secured victories against Columbia (13-1) and West Orange (11-2), pushing their win streak to 16 games.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 4 POWERADE baseball rankings

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
12:32
PM ET
After games on Saturday, April 28

Going undefeated is far from an easy task in baseball, so it's no surprise (or no reason to panic) that contenders like St. Joseph (Mont.) and Red Bank Catholic took "Ls" this past week. The key is hitting their right stride in the conference tournaments, which begin this week, before the real postseason starts.

One big matchup to look forward to this week comes Sunday, when No. 1 Gloucester Catholic, ranked 27th in the POWERADE FAB 50, takes on No. 4 Don Bosco Prep in what could very well be a preview of the Non-Public A championship.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's ranking in parentheses):

1. Gloucester Catholic 13-2 (1)
After an idle week, the Rams have a date with No. 4 Don Bosco Prep in a potential preview of the Non-Public A title game.

2. Jackson 13-1 (7)
Went undefeated in four games last week to emerge as the top Group 4 team as conference tournament play begins.

3. Seton Hall Prep 14-1 (8)
Pirates are rolling behind the consistent pitching of Mike Sheppard III (36 strikeouts) and Bobby Morgenroth (4-0, 1.84 ERA). Mike's dad and the Pirates coach, Mike Sheppard Jr., celebrated his 600th career victory Monday after the Pirates beat Bloomfield 12-2.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 3 POWERADE baseball rankings: Steinert enters the fray

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
11:45
AM ET
After games on Saturday, April 21

As was the case last year, Gloucester Catholic has been dominant against in-state competition this year. The Rams showed this much by beating six teams in five days last week to push their record to 13-2, tighten their hold on the top spot in N.J. and move up to No. 27 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Still, in a state deep with talent, the Rams and other top 10 teams must watch out for those upstart squads. Previously undefeated Wall learned this much when Steinert handed the Crimson Knights their first loss of the season. Steinert now sits at 12-0.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Gloucester Catholic 13-2 (1)
Rams are undefeated against Garden State foes and won six games in five days last week.

2. St. Joseph (Montvale) 13-0 (2)
Have put up 10 or more runs in four of their last five games.

3. Steinert (Hamilton) 12-0 (NR)
Knocked off previously undefeated Wall to move into the rankings.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 2 POWERADE baseball rankings

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
5:28
PM ET
After games on Saturday, April 14

Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth told me before the season that there would be nothing easy about the Bishop Gorman Easter Tournament. Last year, the Rams suffered one of their two losses on the season to Bishop Gorman, but the fruit reaped from facing this tough competition showed in the Rams' dominance of the rest of their schedule.

Last week, the Rams again lost to Bishop Gorman, this time in the title game. They also fell to Bishop Minogue (Nev.), but with seven players hitting .400 or better and ace Mike Shawaryn shining on the mound, there's no reason to panic. They also still remain in the POWERADE FAB 50 at No. 36.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Gloucester Catholic 7-2 (1)
Reached the Bishop Gorman Easter Tournament in Nevada, but lost two games along the way to FAB No. 9 Bishop Gorman (Nev.) and Bishop Minogue (Nev.).

2. St. Joseph (Montvale) 9-0 (2)
Green Knights continue hot start, beating their first nine opponents by an average margin of seven runs.

3. Red Bank Catholic 5-0 (4)
Caseys scored six runs in the final two innings to rally for a 7-5 win against Freehold Borough and remain undefeated.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

N.J. Week 1 POWERADE baseball rankings

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
12:11
PM ET
After games on Sunday, April 7

The very early part of this baseball season has brought much of the same along with a bit of change. Gloucester Catholic picked up right where it left off last season, winning its first four games by a combined margin of 60-1. Led by Brett Tenuto's average of .800, three players are batting above .700 for the No. 34 team in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Things haven't been so fortunate for Don Bosco Prep. At 2-2, the Ironmen have already lost more games than last year's 24-1 campaign. To be fair, though, the two losses came against No. 2 St. Joseph (Mont.) and Maryland power Calvert Hall.

Here are this week's rankings (preseason rankings):

1. Gloucester Catholic 4-0 (2)
Rams picked up where they left off last year, outscoring four foes 60-1.

2. St. Joseph (Montvale) 4-0 (NR)
Along with knocking off preseason favorite Don Bosco Prep, the Green Knights have been on a tear at the plate, recording more than eight runs per game.

3. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey) 2-2 (1)
Ironmen have already lost more games than they did all of last season, but the defeats have come against No. 2 St. Joseph (Mont.) and Maryland power Calvert Hall.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey baseball rankings.

Findlay Prep one win from third NHSI crown

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
4:43
PM ET
video
BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis of No. 1 seed Findlay Prep's (Henderson, Nev.) 68-55 victory over No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) in Friday's semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.

Overview: Findlay Prep, ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, had moments of sluggish play but outscored No. 15 St. Benedict's in every quarter to pull out a 13-point victory. St. Benedict's simply did not shoot well enough against a longer and deeper team. The Gray Bees made 19 of 57 field goals (33 percent) while Findlay Prep shot 24 of 45 (53 percent).

St. Benedict's coach Mark Taylor, in his first season after taking over a program that went 13-12 in 2010-11, felt his two star guards, Melvin Johnson and Tyler Ennis, didn't get their legs under them in the first half. Findlay Prep led 28-17 at halftime and outscored the Gray Bees 18-3 during a stretch late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.

Findlay Prep's lead grew to 51-36 at the conclusion of that run, but three late 3-pointers by Johnson gave the Gray Bees some life. Johnson's final triple made it 63-55 with 1:02 remaining in the game, but St. Benedict's could get no closer.

"They are a scrappy team, they got good guards and they played hard," Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said.

Turning Point: When Findlay Prep point guard Dominic Artis (12 points) failed to fight over a pick and allowed St. Benedict's Kamall Richards (9 points) to nail a 3-pointer with one second left in the first quarter. The Pilots outplayed the Gray Bees in the first quarter, but only led by two points (15-13). Peck gave his players a tongue-lashing at the break and they picked it up defensively the rest of the way.

"We came out flat in the first quarter and we didn't get to the rim," Taylor said. "We played better in the second half, but I thought we over-dribbled and didn't move the ball in the second quarter. We gave up too many transition buckets because of that."

Key Player: Findlay Prep wing Winston Shepard. The 6-foot-8 San Diego State recruit is the Pilots' best defender and most consistent performer on both ends of the floor. He loves the challenge of guarding the opposition's best player. He did a solid job on Johnson, a Miami recruit who came into the tournament averaging 22.5 points.

Johnson finished 5 of 16 from the field for 15 points, while Shepard led four Findlay Prep players in double figures with 17. Shepard made 7 of 8 field-goal attempts and added two assists and three steals.

Key Stat: St. Benedict's only made two field goals in the pivotal second quarter. The first came from Johnson at the 3:46 mark and made the score 21-15. Standout freshman Isaiah Briscoe (team-high 17 points) made the other at 1:17 to make the score 26-17. That was it for St. Benedict's in that eight-minute period as Findlay Prep outscored them, 13-4.

"We just picked it up in the second quarter," Shepard said. "We played hard defense and shot the gaps. We did our best to take out their two best players (Ennis and Johnson)."

St. Benedict's did not attempt a free throw in the first half and made only 7 of 26 field goals in the first half. For a team that did not get to the line, the Gray Bees needed to shoot a higher percentage from the field in order to win the game.

Up Next: The top-seeded Pilots will play No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) for the 2012 NHSI title Saturday at 2pm ET on ESPN. It's a rematch of the 2010 NHSI title game when Findlay Prep defeated the Eagles, 59-46. Findlay Prep will look to win its third NHSI championship in four years while Montverde Academy will look to capture its first title.

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
video
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.

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