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.