HOUSTON, TEXAS - The finals are set for the Academy National Invitational and both brackets have intriguing match-ups for the final day of action. Tywon Lawson helped propel Oak Hill Academy to the nationally televised game where they will meet up against a good Fairfax team.
But in it's game against Wheeler (Ga.) High School, Oak Hill had to fight through a tough team to get there. Well, at least for a half. Oak Hill started off strong against the defending Georgia 5A state champions but couldn't seem to get over the hump and take the game away.
Then came the third quarter and the stifling Oak Hill defense. Wheeler couldn't find a basket when they needed, connecting on just two field goals in eight minutes. The five-star backcourt of Lawson and Smith combined for 29 points and 10 assists. Wheeler had no answer for Lawson, perhaps the fastest high-major guard to come out of the prep ranks this century.
The future Tar Heel has that extra burst of speed that allows him to blow by his man at any given moment. All seven of his field goals were at the rim on a lay-up. Smith wasn't too shabby himself. Lawson toned his scoring down in the second half but that's when the five-star junior picked it up. Like Lawson, Smith scored at all around the bucket.
Try this stat on for size: 26 of Oak Hill's 29 field goals were inside the paint. Beasley and Allen, a Virginia Tech signee, combined for 18 rebounds. Allen has been incredibly efficient for Oak Hill. He, along with the rest of the 2006 Virginia Tech class, has a chance to come in and make a big impact right away.
Wheeler was able to get 15 points and 11 rebounds from their stud James Hickson. The five-star junior forward showed why he's the object of nearly every high-major school's affection. He's got a great body and a variety of moves in the post. The improvement is growing for the big fella from the Peach State.
Oak Hill will play Fairfax for the National Division title while Wheeler moves to player Neumann-Goretti from Philly for the third place game.
Guard play propels Fairfax
Fairfax (Calif.) advanced to the championship finals thanks in large part to the play of senior guard Jerren Shipp and junior wing Chace Stanback. The two combined for 35 points in a 57-47 win over Neumann-Goretti.
Shipp, a well-built 6-foot-4 shooting guard, seemed to always have the bucket that Fairfax needed. He did it inside and out and didn't seemed phased by the pesky defense of Neumann-Goretti. He played poised and within himself. Shipp could be a nice late pick up for a Mountain West level school.
Stanback was smooth as usual to the tune of 17 points and 10 rebounds. When he's not knocking dep down jumpers, he's getting it done inside the paint around the cup.
Neumann-Goretti could have used a couple more players off their bench in their disappointing loss to Fairfax. Antonio Jardine, the team's leading scorer with 14 points, fouled out. That's a problem when you only use a six-man rotation.
Jardine probably won't have his own how-to shoot video because he has a slow hitch in his jumper but the future Syracuse guard finds a way to get the ball to the bottom of the net.
Richard Jackson, Jardine's future teammate at 'Cuse, had a solid 10 and 10 game.
The 5-foot-10 point guard from Alief Hastings had another strong outing and was the answer against a talented Aldine team. Holmes put in 23 points and was poised at the foul line as he sunk home 14 of 17 free throws. He's winning big ball games and putting up big numbers all the while making his team better.
Helping out Holmes once again was junior Larry Davis with 25 points. He's a wiry athlete that has found his range from deep at the tournament to the tune of five trifectas but also running the floor and elevating for some crowd-pleasing dunks. He also added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 assists.
Davis, Holmes and their Hastings team advanced to the Texas Division Championship where they will face Westfield, the No. 1 team in Texas.
Augustin was at it again. The soon-to-be Texas Longhorn had 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals in a tough fought 52-41 loss to Westfield, an incredibly well-oiled machine of a team.
Brandon Brown is a leader and he's a scorer and he does a good job of mixing the two of them together for his Aldine squad. Brown was oftentimes the leading scorer for the loaded Houston Hoops AAU squad and that scorer's mentality translates to the high school level. Brown was at it again on Thursday with his second 30-point performance at the ANI. He put in 35 points and 12 rebounds against Alief Hastings.
Brown said he's hearing the most from Tulane, Southeastern and Texas-Arlington but looking at all options. There aren't a lot of guards still unsigned that can fill up the scoring column like Brown can.
Memo to every team that plays Aldine. Be sure to watch for Gary Johnson the screener. Number 42 isn't afraid to catch a defender on the blind side and lay him out on the hardwood. He did that against an unsuspecting Hastings player and laid him out at mid-court.
Johnson was his usual self, working hard in the paint and maintaining the glass finishing with a quieter 20 points than he's capable of. Assistants from Kentucky and Texas have watched him for two days in a row here at the ANI.
On tap 9:30 a.m. - Cornerstone Christian (Texas) vs. Eisenhower (Texas) 11:00 a.m. - LeFlore (Ala.) vs. Peabody (La.) 12:30 p.m. - Jones (Texas) vs. Wheatley (Texas) 2:00 p.m. - Bellaire (Texas) vs. Kingwood (Texas) 4:00 p.m. - Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) vs. Wheeler (Ga.) National Division third place game on ESPNU 6:00 p.m. - Fairfax (Calif.) vs. Oak Hill (Va.) National Division Championship game on ESPNU 7:30 p.m. - Hastings (Texas) vs. Westfield (Texas) 9:00 p.m. - Aldine (Texas) vs. Hightower (Texas)