boys basketball

Top sophomore R.J. Barrett paces No. 2 Montverde to Hoophall Classic win

Jan 16, 2017; Springfield , MA, USA; Montverde Academy Eagles player Rowan Barrett (5) receives a MVP award at Blake Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-355414 ORIG FILE ID: 20170116_ads_fb7_271.JPG

Montverde Academys’s RJ Barrett receives the game MVP award (Photo: Brian Fluharty, USA TODAY Sports)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – When Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) tried to protect the paint, Montverde (Fla.) Academy’s R.J. Barrett or Andrew Nembhard would step back for a three. If the Knights tried to neutralize Montverde’s guards, Sean Mobley or Sandro Mamaukelashvili would finish with ease in the paint.

No. 2 Montverde’s bevy of scoring options were too much for No. 17 Bishop Montgomery to handle, as the Eagles rolled to a 73-67 victory Monday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

“It’s always like that. Anybody on our team can step up at any moment,” Barrett said.

The No. 1 sophomore in the ESPN25, Barrett scored 22 points and pulled down six rebounds. Like his team, Barrett found ways to hit the Bishop Montgomery defense from all angles.

He opened his scoring by drilling a three-pointer in the first quarter. His next score came at the free throw line – where he scored eight of his points on the day. After that, it was a one-handed slam dunk on a fast break.

“I compete,” Barrett said. “I just attack and see what happens.”

Barrett was matched in points by Nembhard, who constantly found success attacking the hoop. He shot 100 percent from two-point range, most of which came on drives to the lane. He added two three-pointers.

“He’s gotten really good at those quick, Steve Nash-like one layups,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “He’s not an incredible athlete for the highest levels, so he’s got to be deceptive. He’s just a steady guy.”

Montverde moved to 15-2 with both losses coming to Memphis East (Tenn.), including on a buzzer beater in a semifinal at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions on Saturday in Springfield, Mo.

The play of Barrett and Nembhard helped draw the defense away from Montverde’s big men, Mobley (11 points) and Mamukelashvili (seven points), who found easy routes to the hoop time after time.

Jan 16, 2017; Springfield , MA, USA; Montverde Academy Eagles player Sandro Mamukelashvili (23) dunks and scores against the Bishop Montgomery High School Knights at Blake Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-355414 ORIG FILE ID: 20170116_ads_fb7_272.JPG

Sandro Mamukelashvili dunks against the Bishop Montgomery (Photo: Brian Fluharty, USA TODAY Sports)

While Montverde controlled the game for the majority of its four quarters, Bishop Montgomery never relented. The Knights trailed by just three points after the first quarter, just five at the half, then just four at the end of the third.

“[The lead] was four, then it was six, then it was eight…then it was three again,” Boyle said. “It was like ‘Are [Montverde] going to pull away?’ Those games are scary.”

The duo of Oregon State commit Ethan Thompson (19 points) and David Singleton (20 points) put pressure on the Montverde defense.

“It was tough, they’re a good team,” Barrett said. “But they’re also good. We just kept pushing.”

Barrett added that his gameplan headed into the contest wasn’t on how he’d attack the basket. Rather, how he’d defend the talented guards of Bishop Montgomery.

Montverde employed a stifling press that made life difficult for the likes of Thompson and San Diego State commit Jordan Schakel (20 points) as they tried to energize the offense. Often times, the second Bishop Montgomery inbounded the ball, Nembhart, Barrett or Marcus Carr was glued to the ballhandler.

“They moved the ball well,” Barrett said. “So we just had to play defense, and that translates to our offense.”