DICKS Nationals Game 1
3-30-17, Dick’s Nationals Day 1
By Christopher Lawlor
NEW YORK – For Montverde (Fla.) Academy Thursday was about a return to national glory. Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.) on the other hand was looking to make positive impression its first appearance in high school basketball’s crowning event.
For just over two quarters, Shadow Mountain put a legitimate scare into the Eagles. It was an explosive third quarter run and the explosive, high-wire act of RJ Barrett that denied the Matadors a spot in upset lore in this event.
Barrett scored a game-high 24 points and the Eagles defeated Shadow Mountain, 74-61, Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament at Christ the King High School’s Father John Savage Memorial Gymnasium.
The Eagles will play IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) or Greensboro (N.C.) Day School in the semifinals on Friday at 3 p.m. EDT (on ESPN2). Shadow Mountain finished 27-1.
Barrett tallied 13 points in the second half and completed his double-double with 13 rebounds in spite of foul trouble in the third quarter when the Eagles gained distance from their Arizona opponent. Barrett also had two thunderous dunks late that booked passage into the semifinals for coach Kevin Boyle’s team.
Additionally, 6-10 senior Sandro Mamukelashvili, a big-time recruit from the Republic of Georgia, clicked a double-double, clearing 10 rebounds and adding 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Marcus Carr added 12 points and 6 assists.
Montverde’s trio accounted for 56 of their 74 points.
Montverde regained its composure in the third quarter, taking a 54-47 lead after an 18-10 showing. Barrett had six points in the run.
The Matadors were undermanned from the opening tip. Jaelen House, a highly-rated 6-2 sophomore, did not dress and had been suspended by the Arizona Interscholastic Association after an altercation in the state final on February 25.
Without a third option in the attack, it was up to senior Marcus Shaver and sophomore Jovan Blacksher to pick up the slack. The pair both got rolling in the second quarter but could not sustain the pace in the final 16 minutes.
Shaver, a UC Santa Barbara recruit, had 19 points and 4, steals and 4 assists in his final prep game and Blacksher, a electric guard, hit for a team-high 20 (on 8 of 17 shooting), including two 3-point field goals.
Despite the early woes, Shadow Mountain refused to go away and closed to within 29-24 with 4:01 left in the half on a Jovan Blacksher foul line jumper. The Matadors finally took their first lead at 2:06 on Blacksher’s jumper. In the final seconds, Barrett’s left-handed slam dunk restored Montverde’s edge to 36-35, but Blacksher took the inbounds pass and raced the length of court for a layup that beat the first-half buzzer.
Shockingly the Matadors led 37-36 at the break.
In the second quarter along, the duo of Marcus Shaver and Blacksher combined to 24 of their team’s 29 points. Blacksher was held scoreless in the first but exploded for 12 points, making both shots from 3-point range. In the second half, they combined for only 13 points.
Barrett, a 6-7 lithe Canadian, paced Montverde with 11 points and 6 rebounds in the opening half.
In the opening four minutes, both teams struggled to find their rhythm. The layoffs that both teams has—Montverde 46 days and Shadow Mountain 33 days since its Conference 4A state title win—contributed.
After a flurry of transition baskets, the Eagles up 15 points (21-6) before settling for a 21-8 edge after one period. Mamukelashvili had seven points, draining all three shots, including a 3-pointer.
Once the Eagles (25-4) got going, it was hard to stop them. The central Florida school was longer, more athletic and presented depth and size issues in the post for the Phoenix powerhouse, which peeled off 27 straight wins this season before Thursday afternoon.
For the game, the Eagles controlled the boards, 45-21, over the smaller Matadors; and shot 47.5% (28 of 59).