In the Friday night grand finale of the 2004 Marshall County Hoop Fest, defending high school national champion Oak Hill Academy survived the sensational performance by 6-foot-4 guard Monta Ellis, who exploded for 48 points, by outlasting Jackson, Miss., Lanier High School 94-80.
Hoop Fest director Steve Woodward is wearing a big smile today, after the scintillating play in his talent-laden event thrilled last night's sellout crowd of 5,500 to a true hoops feast. In a virtual repeat of their matchup last year, Lanier High gave Coach Steve Smith's Mouth of Wilson, Va., Oak Hill Warriors a highly competitive game. And, Mississippi State signee Monta Ellis, who scored 41 points a year ago, was even better this year, sizzling for a Hoop Fest record 48 points, and almost single-handedly carried Coach Thomas Billups' out-manned Lanier team to an upset.
After trailing 46-35 at the half, and 64-59 at the end of the third quarter, Ellis scored four straight points to tie the game at 66-66 with 5:51 on the clock. However, laser-quick 6-foot-1 junior point guard Tywon Lawson connected on three consecutive three-pointers, and equally superlative junior teammate, 6-foot-9 forward Kevin Durant hit another three, to give Oak Hill an insurmountable 79-66 lead with 3:59 remaining, and the Warriors again escaped Monta Ellis & Company.
According to Syracuse recruit, 6-foot-3 second guard Eric Devendorf, who has played against both Ellis, and outstanding Georgia signee, 6-foot-1 second guard Louis Williams, of Snellville, Ga, South Gwinnett H.S., "Monta Ellis is the best guard in America."
After watching Ellis' performance last night, it is difficult to disagree. Not only does he have to lead, inspire, and do-it-all for his Lanier High team, he is the focal point of every "freak defense' that opposing coaches can devise. Playing primarily from the point, Monta could easily have had a triple double if his teammates could have converted more of his amazing passes. Nonetheless, Ellis' game stats were 48 points on 16-25 field goals, 3-10 three-point attempts, and 7-11 free throws, plus, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals, to earn game Most Valuable Player honors. 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Al Graham added 13 points for Lanier.
The leaders for Oak Hill Academy were Lawson with 25 points, including 5-9 three-pointers; Kevin Durant with 22 points (3-5 3's), and 10 rebounds; Eric Devendorf with 21 points, 6 assists; and unsigned 6-foot-4 "manchild," Jamont Gordon, with 16 points, and 7 assists. Oak Hill moves to 4-0 on the season with Lanier falling to 9-2 on the reason.
In the Friday night 8:30 p.m. contest, defending Tennessee 2A state champions, Bolivar Central High School rolled over host Benton, Ky., Marshall County High School 52-37.
Game Most Valuable Player6-foot-1 junior wing Brandy Robinson scored 18 points; and superb 6-foot-2 junior point guard Willie Kemp had 17 points, and 6 assists, to propel the Bolivar attack. Heralded 6-foot-9 junior post Wayne Chism, had a very "quiet game" with 4 points and 2 rebounds.
Versatile 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior power/wing forward, Daniel Ard, led the Marshals with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. Ard's stellar play proved that he has Division I potential. 5-foot-11 senior guard Nick Newcomb had 9 points for the host school.
In the 7:00 p.m. opening boys game, Bowling Green, Ky., High School defeated Paducah, Ky., Tilghman High School, 77-59. The scoring leaders for former Vanderbilt player, Coach Aaron Beth's Bowling Green Purples were "shootist," 6-foot-2 senior wingJordan Blann with 23 points; game Most Valuable Player 6-foot-7, 190-pound, junior forward Michael T. Jackson, with 18 points, and 15 rebounds; and freshman standout, 6-foot-2 wing Rondale McMillian with 13 points.
Muscular two-sport standout, 6-foot-2, 210-pound, senior forward Tim Laster, was the top player for Tilghman High with 15 points, and 12 rebounds.
Stay tuned for more Hoop Fest updates on Rivals.com's Prime Ticket.