1. University School is the real deal
Just a little over two hours spent driving on Florida’s Interstate-75 North is all that separates University School from the City of Palms Classic held in Fort Myers. Led by the deadly duo of 5-star prospects Vernon Carey Jr. and Scottie Barnes, the Sharks embarked on the short journey from Fort Lauderdale with big aspirations.
Head coach Adrian Sosa’s club entered the prestigious showcase with a perfect 7-0 record; however, the team had not yet registered a victory that was noteworthy enough to catapult them into the USA TODAY’s Super 25 rankings.
The Sharks overwhelmingly made their case at the City of Palms Classic after mounting a four-game championship run which included wins over No. 19 Archbishop Molloy, No. 14 Mater Dei, No. 9 McEachern and No. 1 Memphis East.
University School is lacking some of the depth of teams like Memphis East, Montverde or Oak Hill, but the Sharks make up for that weakness with exceptional play from their starters. The backcourt of point guard Drue Drinnon (New Mexico signee) and shooting guard Trey Doomes (West Virginia signee) joined by the frontcourt powers of Barnes and Carey is enough to create a truly formidable force.
Here’s a look at the championship game between Memphis East and University School. The Sharks won 77-72.
2. Memphis East is elite but not invincible
Since regaining the services of power forward James Wiseman and small forward Ryan Boyce, the Mustangs have looked nearly unstoppable.
Memphis East defeated No. 4 Findlay Prep by a score of 68-57 at the inaugural Larry Finch Classic on Nov. 25.
Two weeks later, head coach Penny Hardaway’s club knocked off then-No. 12 ranked Prolific Prep by a margin of 80-54. Finally, the Mustangs hammered then-No. 13 ranked Webster Groves by 35 points at the GEICO High School Showcase on Dec. 14.
It’s hard to deny the talent of Memphis East. The Mustangs have five players that are ranked nationally by 247 Sports including: Chandler Lawson (5-star prospect), Wiseman (5-star), Malcolm Dandridge (4-star), Alex Lomax (3-star) and Boyce (3-star). This list also precludes freshman Johnathan Lawson who is considered one of the top prospects in the class of 2021.
However, despite the team’s immense talent, Memphis East displayed its first sign of weakness at the City of Palms Classic. The Mustangs are certainly still elite, but the loss at the hands of University School could be something for future opponents to remember.
Here’s a look at the highlights from the Mustangs first round matchup against Lakewood Ranch. Memphis East won 76-58.
3. McEachern continues to impress
If only a couple more plays in the semifinals could have gone the opposite way, then it may have been McEachern (Ga.) who advanced to the championship game against Memphis East rather than University School.
The City of Palms Classic began for McEachern with a rather routine 77-57 victory over a talented Ranney School team. In the quarterfinals though, the Indians found themselves in an overtime battle with No. 6-ranked Hudson Catholic.
McEachern point guard Sharife Cooper impressed in the tightly-contested matchup as the 5-10 sophomore showcased his dizzying speed and excellent ability to finish around the rim. Still, no basket was bigger for the 4-star prospect than his last second shot to seal the victory against the Hawks.
With the score tied at 81 and only seconds remaining, Cooper launched a deep two-point attempt at the buzzer that rattled home to give McEachern a dramatic 83-81 win over Hudson Catholic in overtime.
The Indians also capped off the tournament with a 56-54 win over Simeon (Chicago) to capture a third-place finish at the event.
Here’s a look at the highlights from the quarterfinals game between Hudson Catholic and McEachern. Cooper finished with 42 points in addition to hitting the game-winning basket. Check out the highlights.
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