MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — After a year away, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) is back in a familiar place, the finals of the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals. The Eagles defeated Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 72-45 in a DICK’S semifinal Friday as guard R.J. Barrett scored 26 points.
Montverde didn’t make it to the finals last year, but the Eagles won the event three consecutive years from 2014-2016, until Ben Simmons graduated. Now, with Barrett, considered the No. 1 sophomore in the country, the team could be poised for another big three years. The Eagles (26-4) are the No. 8 team in the Super 25 boys basketball rankings.
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said his team might be an underdog regardless of who it plays in Saturday’s final, but if the Eagles win, they will deserve to be No. 1.
“I think we’ve played eight teams in the top 10 and everybody here may have played one or two,” Boyle said. “Our schedule, if this was the NCAA, our RPI would make us No. 1, 2, and 3 — it’s not even close. If these guys win, they’ve earned the right to be the best team in the country.”
Greensboro Day (34-4), the tournament’s No. 7 seed and lowest ranked team in the Super 25 rankings here at No. 18, was down by 20 points in the third quarter and was not able to make a big enough run to threaten Montverde.
The Bengals tried guarding Barrett with three different players, to various degrees of futility.
“That was pretty impressive,” Greensboro Day coach Freddy Johnson said. “We have played against some great players. He had 21 points in the first half, but it’s not just him. There are other guys on that team that make him good. As a player, you appreciate your teammates. That was a heck of a performance tonight.”
Montverde led 41-23 at the half as Barrett had 21 points, punctuated by a three-pointer just before the buzzer. The Eagles’ backcourt of Marcus Carr and Barrett did a good job of neutralizing the Bengals’ guards in the first two quarters.
Barrett only had five points in the second half, but Montverde was able to use its star as a decoy and other players stepped up. North Carolina commit Rechon “Leaky” Black had seven rebounds and 12 points, including six points in the fourth quarter and senior power forward Sandro Mamukelashvili had 11 points and seven rebounds. Mamukelashvili also set the tone with a dunk off a set play on the first play of the second half.
“To be honest, I didn’t need to score in the second half,” Barrett said. “Everybody pitched in and it made it a lot easier to play.”
Montverde started out in a 3-2 zone but switched to a 2-3 and that seemed to cause the Bengals fits. Greensboro Day shot 38.5% from the floor, including a horrific 2-for-22 from the three-point line.
“The switch made a difference,” said J.P. Moorman, who along with Solomon Smith, led the Bengals with 10 points. “They are really long and they went big on us, which was a good adjustment. We matched up well with them at the beginning of the game when they had one big guy, but when they brought two in, we were in trouble. We enjoyed the experience of being him. We were happy to be here but we couldn’t make any shots.”