Editor's note: Chris Lawlor will be providing instant analysis from the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational in Bethesda, Md. For more information on the NHSI, check out the index.
Oak Hill 74, St. Benedict's 66
For the second straight day, ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) played a sluggish opening half.
And for the second time, the Warriors delivered in the last 16 minutes, toppling No. 4 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), 74-66, Saturday in the semifinals of the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep's Hanley Center.
Instant analysis: Just when you thought OHA was pulling away, the Gray Bees answered to remain within striking distance. Give credit to St. Benedict's coach Dan Hurley for managing a superb game. OHA emerged through its superior depth and unflappable play in crunch time. No question the Gray Bees would have been different if 6-foot-9 junior Tristan Thompson, who transferred midseason to Findlay Prep, had been in the middle.
How the game was won: The turning point occurred in the final 67 seconds of the third quarter, when OHA struck with five unanswered points and St. Benedict's was whistled for an offensive foul, producing a 52-42 lead. Gallon's 3-pointer seemed confusing after the clock operator attempt to buzz in Aaron Brown of St. Benedict's. Play stopped briefly, but Gallon swished a trey and a turnover added another basket for OHA. The Warriors played well in the fourth. "That was a big three," OHA coach Steve Smith said.
Player of the game: OHA's Jones showed guile and savvy, scoring 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting plus five rebounds and two steals. Jones, a New York City native, can create off the dribble and bury the long jumper. "This tournament is about our six seniors; we don't want to go home," Jones said.
Stat of the game: It was a tale of two halves for OHA's shooters. In the first half they struggled, making only 12-of-33 shots (36.4 percent) but reversed it in the second half, going 15-of-24 (62.5 percent).
What it means: The Warriors control their destiny. This time a win over No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) or No. 8 Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) will likely determine the national champion.
Quotable: Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith on his team's slow start: "We don't intentionally do it; we're usually fast starting. We'll get a few spurts in the game, and they generally lead to easy baskets. Today, we had three of them in the first, third and fourth quarters. It's hard to overcome that, but give St. Benedict's credit: They hung in there until the final minute."
Findlay Prep 60, Montrose Christian 43
Avery Bradley Jr. made quick work of No. 8 Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) on Saturday. Bradley scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter, leading No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) to an easy 60-43 victory in the semifinals of the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational.
The Pilots (32-0) never trailed, leading 15-7 after one and 27-13 at the break. The Nevada school pushed the ball, creating mismatches for Montrose Christian (21-3), which typically prefers a slower pace. Findlay, which dresses only eight players, demonstrated their quickness and superb conditioning.
The game drew a standing-room-only crowd of 1,200 to Georgetown Prep's Hanley Center. The mainly pro-Montrose crowd left disappointed.
Villanova-bound forward Isaiah Armwood topped Montrose with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Instant analysis: Findlay stuck to the game plan, starting out fast building a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter. Bradley was on fire, striking for 15 of his team's first 17 points. Findlay's cushion was upped to 18 points midway through the third, and it hit 28 in the fourth. Findlay then put it on cruise control, anticipating the final.
How the game was won: It's tough to dig out of a 15-point hole, but Montrose did. The Mustangs like to play big games at a deliberate pace, but not today.
Player of the game: Bradley showed why he's a McDonald's All-American -- he single-handedly outscored Montrose in the opening half, making 7 of 12 shots for 20 points. For the game, he contributed 27 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. "Mentally, I was in the game from the first tip," he said.
Stat of the game: Montrose shot a woeful 15-of-56 from the floor (26.8 percent) and was outrebounded 51-46. Center Mouphtaou Yarou, a Villanova recruit, did not make a field goal, finishing with six points.
What it means: Well, the dream matchup is in place. The national championship game is in place. On Sunday afternoon, the basketball world's eyes will cast upon No. 1 Oak Hill vs. No. 2 Findlay Prep. It's for all the marbles; the winner takes all. The game tips at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. "You have the 1 vs. 2 matchup," Findlay Prep Coach Michael Peck said. "We're not satisfied until we take the [title] back to [Las] Vegas."
Quotable: "Defense is a staple of our program," Peck said. "We knew to attack their perimeter guard; that was an area of weakness. We didn't want to get in a half-court game where they dump the ball inside to [Mouphtaou] Yarou."
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.