NEPSAC AAA: Brewster 71, St. Thomas More 62

BEVERLY, Mass. -- Over the last decade and a half, no prep school has drawn as many talented players as New Hampshire’s Brewster Academy. And, as the Bobcats demonstrated in an impressive 71-62 win over St. Thomas More (Conn.), talent usually prevails.

Led by a trio of highly-touted college prospects, the Bobcats took home their fifth NEPSAC AAA Championship since 2008, and did it in front of a packed house at Endicott College.

The fingerprints of UConn-bound point guard Jalen Adams (24 points) were all over this contest, while Arizona commit Justin Simon (12 points) and Lousiville commit Donovan Mitchell (14 points) flashed plenty of potential as well.

After falling behind 19-12 early in the first half, those three athletic guards led a 14-0 run, as they forced the Chancellors into five turnovers during a three-minute stretch.

Adams confirmed, “It was definitely defense,” that turned around the game in the early going. “Our defense feeds into our offense. Once we start getting stops and get out in transition, then we start having fun by getting dunks and open threes.”

The Roxbury native finished the first half with a couple of highlight-reel dunks to put the Bobcats up 34-26 going into the break, and picked up where he left off in the second half. He led a 9-2 run to start the half, displaying a full repertoire of three-point shooting, floaters, and outstanding court vision in the process.

St. Thomas fought all the way back to cut the deficit to five points (63-58) in the final two minutes, but defense fittingly sealed the win for Brewster Academy, as Mitchell and Adams combined for a steal in the backcourt to ice the win.

On To Nationals: Brewster Academy hasn’t just dominated the region since Jason Smith took over as head coach 15 years ago. The Bobcats have been one of the most successful programs in the entire country, and will now begin a quest for a fourth National Prep Championship over the last six years.

According to Smith, the biggest challenge in regards to achieving that goal may be a grueling schedule.

“I think we have the pieces to make another run at a national title, but the issue now is fatigue. After playing on Saturday and Sunday, we play Tuesday, and then potentially have two games on Wednesday with the semifinals and finals on the same day, so it’s definitely a test of attrition,” Smith said.

After playing close to 40 minutes on Sunday night, Adams said that he’d be good to go after resting tomorrow.

The senior still managed to finish a breathtaking drive that ended the opposition’s 9-0 run late, and put the Bobcats up 61-54 late in the game. “A lot of us were tired, because we had played most of the second half,” Adams admitted, “So we just had to get a bucket there to slow down their momentum.”

With a highly talented, and poised point guard leading his team, Smith remains confident about the Bobcats’ chances in their first tournament game this Tuesday at Connecticut College.

“Jalen [Adams] is a stud,” said Smith. “He’s an ultimate competitor, and all he cares about is winning. It’s killing him- the season UConn is having- I’m sure he wishes he could step in right now to help coach [Kevin] Ollie out, and I’m sure he’s going to contribute from day one.”

Tough Matchup: Technically, the Bobcats starting lineup includes four guards, as Adams, Simon, and Mitchell play alongside 6-foot guard David Crisp, while 6-foot-8 senior forward Marcus Derrickson mans the middle for Brewster Academy.

However, at 6-foot-5, with excellent ball-handling skills, Simon allows the Bobcats to play fast without giving up too much size down low. The California native led Brewster with 10 rebounds in the NEPSAC Championship game, and set the tone by blocking a couple of shots early in the first half.

“We always want to have guys that are versatile,” said Smith. “Justin [Simon] has had an unbelievable season for us. He’s played four positions. He’ll be a point guard in college, but we ask him to play power forward essentially, and he does a great job passing the ball, rebounding, and he’s one of our best perimeter defenders as well.”

With Simon, Mitchell, and Adams jumping passing lanes, and wreaking havoc defensively, the Chancellors let the game get away from them at points.

St. Thomas head coach Jere Quinn said, “We rushed. And that’s the only thing we knew we couldn’t do against a team that talented, and that athletic. We took a couple quick threes, we didn’t really fight to get open, and played to their strengths by turning it over.”

He continued, “We didn’t have to play perfectly, but we had to play pretty close in order to beat them, but I’m extremely proud of the way our kids played hard for 40 minutes.”

When you’re facing a team that features three ESPN100 recruits, it might not matter if you’re perfect, because superior talent ends up surfacing over the course of a basketball game.

Brewster Academy 71, St. Thomas More 62

Top Performers:

Brewster Academy – Jalen Adams (24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks)

Brewster Academy – Justin Simon (12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks)

Brewster Academy – Donovan Mitchell (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals)

St. Thomas More – Sterling Taplin (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)

St. Thomas More – Christian Vital (12 points, 4 rebounds)

St. Thomas More – Ryan Funk (16 points, 3 of 4 from 3PT range)