It wasn’t its final exam, but Montverde Academy (Fla.) passed the test anyway.
The nation’s top-ranked high school basketball team handled business Friday night, getting past a pesky DeMatha (Md.) team 76-66 to advance to the Beach Ball Classic final.
Montverde seeks to earn its second tournament championship on Saturday when it takes on Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.). Tip time is projected for 7:15 p.m.
Duke commit R.J. Barrett had 24 points, while teammate Makhi Mitchell added 15 of his own. Andrew Nembhard and Filip Petrusev also scored in double figured, offering 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“We’re kind of used (to taking teams’ best shot) at Montverde Academy,” Barrett said. “Everyone comes for us and we just got to play through it.”
In the final two minutes, a flurry by DeMatha allowed it to cut the Montverde lead to six points. In the end, however, Montverde’s seniority won out.
“They made a lot of shots that kept them in the game,” said Montverde basketball coach Kevin Boyle. “But I thought we responded with some baskets here and there when they cut it to six. They kind of did what they could, but we’re a bit more of a senior team, a little older and a little more experienced at this stage.”
The teams traded punches in the first half, with DeMatha taking a brief 19-17 lead following a Carsten Kogelnik 3-pointer. Montverde responded with a run of its quickly responded with a 6-0 run of its own, retaking the lead for good.
According to DeMatha basketball coach Mike Jones, he wanted to see if his team could push Montverde like no other team has this season. While the mission was accomplished, he felt there were too many plays left on the floor by his team.
“We just made too many turnovers,” he said. “Those, and our inability to get to the free throw line on a consistent basis really hurt us tonight.”
Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) 53, Cox Mill (N.C.) 47: Tournament newcomer Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) continued to make waves, coming from behind to edge Cox Mill (N.C.) 53-47 on Friday night in the Beach Ball Classic semifinals.
Tykei Greene led Luteran with 13 points, Frankie Policelli added 12 points and seven rebounds and Essam Mostafa had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Crusaders (6-1) held a three-point lead at the half, but trailed by as many as nine after the break before stepping up on defense while settling in on offense.
“I started the game in Zone [defense], and I never should have done that,” Lutheran coach John Buck said. “We should have come out, did what we did and played man, which got us the win at the end of the game."
After shooting 34.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Crusaders hit 10 of 16 shots after the break.
“They sped us up with their pressure, and we were a little too hyped and rattled, and took some bad [shots] in the first half,” Buck said. “Our kids are so coachable. … They just needed to settle down and get each other better shots, and I thought we did that.”
Cox Mill junior Wendell Moore, Jr., who led the tournament with 61 points through the first two games, was held to just 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
The Crusaders (11-2), who entered the game ranked No. 21 in USA Today’s Super 25 Computer Rankings, will face DeMatha in the Third-Place game Saturday at 5:30 p.m.