There was no shortage of talent on display at the third annual ESPN Rise National High School Invitational basketball tournament on March 31. Hosted at one of the most prestigious schools in the area, Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Md., the growing basketball tourney saw top prep star guards Austin Rivers, Myck Kabongo, Quinn Cook and Nick Johnson grace the floor for their last taste of high school action.
Rivers, Kabongo, Cook and Johnson make up four of ESPN’s top 39 high school prospects, and Rivers, Kabongo and Cook all played in the McDonald’s All-American Game the night prior in Chicago. The action was fast and fierce among a pool of eight nationally-acclaimed high schools, including Montrose Christian of Rockville, Md., Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev., Boys & Girls of Brooklyn, N.Y., Winter Park High School of Winter Park, Fla., United Faith Christian Academy of Charlotte, N.C., Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., John Carroll of Bel Air, Md., and Dwyer High School of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
No. 3 Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 64 vs. John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.) 59
The Montrose Christian Mustangs entered the first game of the tournament as the third-ranked team in the country. Stacked with talented players such as senior guard Tyrone Johnson, Villanova recruit, junior guard Justin Anderson and junior forward Michael Carrera, Montrose Christian is the top seed in the tournament. But a month-long layoff saw them struggle for most of the day against John Carroll before grinding out a 64-59 victory. Johnson led Montrose with 19 points while starting senior guard Tyler Hubbard connected on four three-pointers to push the team into the second round.
“We haven’t played since Feb. 25,” Montrose coach Stu Vetter said. “But give them a lot of credit, they played very hard, they came out with a game plan and their guards were very difficult to defend.
Game notes: John Carroll senior guard Ronald Scott scored 25 points and made five three-pointers, while Montrose’s Carrera scored 17 points and added eight rebounds.
No. 15 Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) 70 vs. No. 7 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 61
Even senior guards Kabongo, the ninth-ranked recruit nationwide who has committed to Texas, and Johnson, the No. 23-ranked recruit headed to Arizona, couldn’t help Findlay Prep add a third straight tournament title to their trophy case. Findlay started out strong but folded late as Dwyer’s two-way sensation, senior forward Jacoby Brissett, used strong late-game defense to advance to the tourney’s second day with a 70-61 win. Brissett has committed to the University of Florida, where he is expected to play quarterback, but in the meantime he’s still a prime time player for his prep school’s basketball team.
Brissett scored 30 points and dominated his matchup with Kabongo, who could only muster two points. Kabongo barely got any rest after playing in the McDonalds game in Chicago the night before, but Brissett wasn’t about to let his foot off the gas.
The 6-foot, 4-inch power forward came away with a pair of steals and easy layups late to break the game open as Dwyer outscored the two-time defending tournament champs 25-12 in the final period. “We learned that when we go hard we can beat anyone,” Brissett said.
Game notes: Findlay’s Johnson scored 22 and shot a game-high 17 free throws.
No. 22 Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 63 vs. No. 14 Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) 58
The gymnasium at Georgetown Prep lit up for the day’s third game, and it was standing room only to watch Winter Park senior guard Rivers, the nation’s top prep player and a Duke recruit, close out his career in fashion.
Rivers started off slow with a scoreless first quarter before exploding for 31 points and nine rebounds. But Rivers said the points were a “sloppy 30” after he missed what would’ve been a game-tying three pointer in the closing seconds, allowing Boys & Girls to score one more quick basket and escape with a 63-58 victory.
The trademark burst and explosion just wasn’t there for Rivers, who appeared sluggish from the start and his last shot, an airball, just didn’t have any lift. But Rivers refused to blame his play on fatigue, waving off assumptions that playing in Chicago the night before had any effect on his game. “I had plenty of rest for this game. I don’t have any excuse for the game,” Rivers said. “We lost.”
Game notes: Boys & Girls senior forward Malik Nichols added 20 points and eight rebounds
No. 5 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 86 vs. No. 31 United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) 52
The last game of the day was hardly a game at all as the star for Oak Hill, former DeMatha standout senior guard Quinn Cook (No. 39-ranked player nationally, committed to Duke), scored 27 points and nailed five three pointers in a 86-52 rout.
Cook knocked down four three-pointers in the first half as Oak Hill opened a 40-28 halftime lead and never looked back. Cook, the only McDonald’s All-American to win in todays tournament games, looked explosive, energized and comfortable. Cook said he felt as if he was playing “at home,” and a late 8 p.m. game may have given him enough rest to perform well.
“I just stayed off my feet,” Cook said, of his preparation to play a day after the McDonald’s game. “I was really looking forward to this game and making a statement.”
Game notes: Oak Hill junior forward Jordan Adams scored 20 points and connected on three three-pointers.
Day Two of the tournament on April 1 features Montrose Christian matching up with Boys & Girls at 3:30 p.m. and Dwyer squaring off against Oak Hill at 5:30 p.m.