DICK’s Nationals Game 3

By Christopher Lawlor
Game 2
NEW YORK – Greensboro (N.C.) Day added an impressive victory on Thursday to expanding list in program history. And they did it with good old-fashion defense and fundamentals.

Yes, coach Freddy Johnson’s team demonstrated that lower seeds cannot be taken lightly when it comes to competitive tournament time. The team concept was on full display when it mattered most—crunch time or the fourth quarter. Solomon Smith and Will Dillard both scored at around the five minute mark, buoying the Bengals.

Add it up, all the contributions, and Greensboro moved on to the semifinal round after dispatching of second-seeded IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), 59-40, in the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament quarterfinals at Christ the King High School’s Father John Savage Memorial Gymnasium.

“We are a true team,” said Johnson, who has been at the school for 40 years. “We like to distribute the ball and our coach Jeff Smith does a great job of preparing us defensively. We’ve held some very talented teams to low points; we only allow 44 points a game.”

That means the Bengals play third-seeded Montverde (Fla.) Academy, which has won three of the last four tournament here, in the semifinals on Friday at 3 p.m. EDT (on ESPN2). The boys’ semifinals are preceded by a girls’ semifinal doubleheader with Hamilton Heights Christian (Chattanooga, Tenn.) vs. St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) at 11 a.m. (on ESPNU) and top-ranked Miami (Fla.) Country Day vs. Seton Catholic Prep (Chandler, Ariz.) at 1 p.m. (ESPNU). The girls’ final is Saturday morning at 10 on ESPN2.

Three players scored in double figures for Greensboro (34-3). JP Moorman, a Temple commit, led the way with 15 points and 7 rebounds; unheralded North Carolina Central-bound Jordan Perkins scored 14 points and drained two 3-pointers in the decisive run in the fourth quarter; and Will Dillard added 10 points (6 of 6 from the free throw line) and snatched 5 rebounds. Greensboro converted 19 turnovers into 19 points and outscored IMG, 13-3, on second chance points.

Solomon Smith scored 8 points but more importantly drew three charges on defense.

“That’s probably the one stat that I liked the most,” Johnson said, grinning.

IMG reduced the deficit to 38-36 when junior Silvio De Sousa, who played in the DICK’S Nationals a year ago with Montverde, scored with 7:28 to go. But the Ascenders would not score again for over six minutes. Meanwhile, the Bengals rattled off the next 15 points, but a pair 3-point daggers from Perkins sealed IMG’s second loss of the campaign. The Ascenders concluded 26-2 playing in their first DICK’S Nationals.

Trevon Duval, a McDonald’s All American and the nation’s top-ranked point guard, netted 14 points and 3 steals before fouling out.

IMG looked every bit of a team that had not played a regular season games since mid February until the second half.

Something finally clicked for IMG at the onset of the third quarter. The Ascenders tallied the first 11 points to even the score at 31 on back-to-back slam dunks in transition by De Sousa and Keyontae Johnson, respectively. Smith’s jumper from the right wing restored Greensboro’s advantage, 33-31, interrupting the spurt. IMG’s DeAndre Osuigwe buried a trey less than two minutes into the third quarter trimming the deficit to 31-25. It was the closest IMG was since the opening three minutes of play.

De Sousa and Johnson wound up with six points apiece.

The Bengals maintained the lead, 38-34, through three quarter and then unleashed a crippling run that clinched it.

Obviously the Bengals were not in awe of IMG.

“We’ve played a competitive national schedule this season and we also play on the summer circuit against these guys. We see great players, great teams enough,” Moorman said. “Today we were well prepared; our coaches do a great job of learning the other teams’ set and how to defend it.”

It was a much different outcome from the 2015 event when the Bengals’ deliberate style kept things close with eventual champions Montverde (Fla.) Academy. The Bengals lost 50-34 and nearly had the same output from that day in the first half along against IMG.

With two minutes left in the opening half, Perkins drained a free throw to give Greensboro its largest lead of 15 points at 27-12. Duval cut into Greensboro’s lead as his running bank shot made it 31-20. Duval’s 14 points and 3 steals kept the Ascenders in the game.

IMG was careless with the ball in the first half and the Bengals cashed in with 12 points off 10 turnovers. Both teams shot below average from the floor as Greensboro was 10 of 24 (41.7%) and IMG at 40% (8 of 20) but were miserable from beyond the arc combining for 3 of 18, including 2 of 11 (18.2%) for the Floridians.

Moorman struck for 11 points and Solomon Smith and John Newman had 6 apiece for Greensboro.

The Bengals established the early pace for a 17-10 lead through one as Moorman scored 7 points.

In the end, though, it was all about playing as a team.