HOUSTON, TEXAS - Two of the top teams in the country are moving on to the Academy National Invitational championship in the National Division and a pair of locals are looking for the Texas title. The 1-2 punch of Corey Fisher and Jeff Robinson was outstanding in the tourney's best game.
Texas sized thriller
The Academy National Invitational needed that one game that had everyone talking. On Thursday night, those that saw the St. Patrick-Norcross game witnessed something a game that should make for great conversation for a lot longer than a year.
St. Patrick held off a terrific Norcross come back and held on to win an instant classic, 49-46.
Future Memphis Jeff Robinson, who a year ago would have never had been thought as a go-to guy in the clutch on the wing, drilled a three-pointer with 18 seconds to play which sealed the deal for Kevin Boyle's club.
Robinson was outstanding in the entire contest, scoring a team high 23 points on eight of 14 shooting from the floor. Always known for his incredible athletic ability, Robinson is doing more for his team than ever before. He was three for four from deep.
"We've got the thing called the gun at my school now," Robinson said. "I think I use it more than anybody."
He must be wearing it out.
Corey Fisher was outstanding in the victory and controlled the pace of the game and wore out every Norcross defender that came at him. The future Villanova guard scored 21 points and handed out six assists. He was perfect from three, knocking down a trio of attempts.
Fisher is playing at a high level right now and has his team playing inspired basketball. He controlled the pace of the game and had that confidence to him that just said, "We are winning this game."
St. Patrick was up by 12 with less than four minutes to play but the Celtics ran into a wall named Gani Lawal. The future Georgia Tech forward has been Mr. fourth quarter this tournament and was the came up with a giant block on sophomore Dexter Strickland late in the fourth quarter. The block was one of six and it also took him to another level on offense.
Lawal, the best fourth quarter player in the tournament, finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds. If Norcross needed a bucket, he provided. After a dismal showing at the charity stripe the game before, he sunk his final four free throws in clutch against St. Patrick.
Lawal is playing as good of basketball as we've seen from him in the four years of watching that athletic big man. But as good as he's been playing, going 0-for-2 against big time teams can't sit well with the competitive prospect.
Coming out party
Go ahead and call the Academy National the coming out party for Klein Collins point guard Demetri Goodson. The 5-foot-11 point guard is a player. The junior set the tone for Klein Collins's 54-51 win over Bellaire.
Goodson only scored 11 points but he falls into the category of being a guy that can make plays without putting the ball through the cylinder. Goodson added six assists and four rebounds.
"Oh, he's the real deal," Klein Collins head coach Tim Schumacher said. "He does a great job of running our team and controlling our tempo. Demetri knows how to control the pace of the game and makes the right play."
No question about it. Goodson has a chance to be a must-watch player for the high-majors this spring. Some already have. Kansas came in to see him earlier in the month, Schumacher said. Texas A&M, Wichita State, Utah and Houston have offered scholarships up to this point.
Back to the basics
Defense breeds offense for Rice High School. Always has. Always will. The intensity level was back for the New York City school in Rice's 79-55 thrashing of Alief Hastings.
"When we play defense, we are clicking and everyone is playing hype," sophomore guard Lamont Jones said.
Rice was clicking on defense as they forced 17 turnovers that generally sparked the offense into transition mode.
"We had to play with more pride, that was the bottom line," sophomore Durand Scott said just a day after a tough overtime loss to Norcross. "We didn't do a good job on defense yesterday. Today we realized we had to box out and win that battle."
Playing out of his true position, Scott was the foundation force on the boards as the 6-foot-4 wing grabbed 10 rebounds. Kemba Walker had the hot hand with 17 points and played a great game on the defensive end of the floor. Chris Fouch had the hot hand again from behind the arc, knocking down three three-pointers.
B.J. Holmes, a Texas A&M signee, scored a game high 22 points. The point guard was the only real offensive option for Hastings in this one as he knocked down four three-pointers.
News & Notes
With a college decision behind him, Erving Walker seemed to play with the weight of the world off of his shoulders. 21 points later and a 69-53 Christ the King victory over Rainer Beach, the diminutive point guard seemed to be a little more relaxed.
Walker may only be 5-foot-8, but that didn't seem to bother him much as a rebounder. He snuck in for nine rebounds and was pesky on the defensive end with five steals. As a point guard, he dropped in five assists and played under control from start to finish.
Gary Johnson is getting closer to doing what he has never done before. The future Texas forward went for 20 points and 20 rebounds in a 67-62 Aldine win over Strake Jesuit.
There is no stopping his motor and there never will be at the Aldine Campbell Center. He just goes and goes and goes. Johnson and his Aldine crew have never won the ANI and this year he is playing as if he knows he can get it.
Strake Jesuit is good now but they will be even scarier bunch next year. With a roster filled with sophomores and juniors, the Fighting Crusaders are being put through the refiners fire right. Understand this about the team - there is no surrender in their attitude.
Even in the defeat to Aldine, Strake Jesuit fought for every ball on every possession down to the wire and showed a lot of determination. Sophomores Joey Brooks and Stevie Rogers and junior Trent Rogers have played big this tournament.
Senior Sei Paye is looking like an absolute steal for Louisiana-Monroe. After seeing him in action for two games in a row, it doesn't come as a surprise to see why some high-majors tried to turn the heat up on him before the signing period began. Paye is long at the two guard spot, makes plays and seems to be on the upswing in the talent curve.
Tommy Mason-Griffin looked a little better on day two of the tourney. The future LSU guard put up 19 points and dished out five assists. He's a confident kid and even though he's a hair over 5-foot-8, he does a great job of exploding on his jumper and shooting at the highest release point. His Madison team picked up a 68-58 win over The Woodlands.
Jeffery Francis, a 6-foot-6 senior, has been an intriguing prospect despite Westbury Christian's two losses up to this point. Francis scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Francis is a bouncy, do-a-little-of-everything kind of player for Westbury. He could be a good mid-major sleeper late in the game.
All eyes on me & recruiting scoop
Assistants from Iowa, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, Texas and Texas A&M were all in the gym.
Jeff Capel and Stan Heath both came in to see Jai Lucas, who almost brought his Bellaire squad back to victory against Klein Collins. Lucas scored a game high 21 points.
Is he committed to Louisville or not? Everyone wanted to know the answer to that question regarding Rice guard Lamont Jones. The
"They are my top school," Jones said. "I'm looking at them really hard."
But he has not officially committed to the Cardinals. That is what was settled after the game. The sophomore said his mother and coach believes that he needs to wait a little longer before making it official.
"They've both said it's my decision but they want me to wait," Jones said. "I'm dead set on going there."
Durand Scott, a five-star sophomore, said Duke is his favorite school and is in the beginning stages of the recruiting process with the ACC program. He added that Memphis, Virginia, North Carolina and Connecticut are also recruiting him.
Teammate Kemba Walker said Memphis, Cincinnati, St. John's and Georgetown are looking at him.
Yates big man Anthony Jones said he's looking the hardest at Texas, Arizona, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The 6-foot-10 lefty scored a modest 10 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots in a 47-44 early morning win over Westbury Christian.
Jones said he would like to make a decision before the AAU season. According to his head coach, the race could pair down to the Lone Star State.
"It's going to come down to Texas or Texas A&M," Yates head coach Fred Smith said.
Yates 47, Westbury Christian 44 Rice 79, Hastings 55 Madison 68, The Woodlands 58 Christ the King 69, Rainer Beach 53 Klein Collins 54, Bellaire 51 St. Patrick 49, Norcross 46 Aldine 66, Strake Jesuit 62 DeMatha 58, Kingwood 48
On tap for Saturday
9:30 a.m. - Westbury Christian vs. The Woodlands 11:00 a.m. - Hastings vs. Christ the King 12:30 p.m. - Yates vs. Madison 2:00 p.m. - Rice vs. Rainer Beach 3:30 p.m. - Bellaire vs. Jesuit 5:00 p.m. - Norcross vs. Kingwood 6:30 p.m. - Klein Collins vs. Aldine (Texas Division championship) 8:00 p.m. - St. Patrick vs. DeMatha (National Division championship)
Tournament officials switched the bracket around so Rice and Christ the King won't have to play each other in the final game. The New York teams are in the same division in their home area.