Who: No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) vs. No. 3 University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
When: 3 p.m. ET Friday
Where: Christ The King (Middle Village, N.Y.)
About University School: The south Florida squad, which is located near Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, captured its first-ever state title thanks to a quartet of elite recruits. Currently ranked No. 2 in the USA TODAY Super 25, the Sharks rolled through the FHSAA Class 5A state tournament, eventually topping Trinity Catholic 80-40 in the state final. The team lost just once during the regular season — to fellow GEICO competitor Oak Hill in the Spalding Hoophall Classic — and won the prestigious City of Palms Classic in December. The Sharks have won 16 straight, including signature victories against the likes of Memphis East, McEachern (Ga.), Mater Dei (Calif.) and Wesleyan Christian (N.C.).
Junior Vernon Carey Jr. is the biggest Sharks threat, was the MVP of the U16 USA Team that won a gold medal at FIBA Americas in Argentina. His father, former Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey Sr., lends to the center’s 6-foot-9, 259-pound frame and athleticism. Carey Jr. is surrounded by strong shooting from senior New Mexico recruit Drue Drinnon, West Virginia-signee Trey Doomes and sophomore Scottie Barnes, who is considered the team’s floor leader. Both 6-2 Joshua Sanguinetti and 5-10 Xavien Flowers are Division I football recruits off the bench, which is sometimes needed extensively because of the Sharks’ up-tempo attack.
About Oak Hill Academy:
The Warriors have now won eight straight and look like they could be on a collision course for a spot in the final against Super 25 No. 1 Montverde Academy. Among Oak Hill’s laundry list of signature wins in 2017-18? A big time victory against this very same No. 2-ranked University School squad at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.
The 43-1 Warriors are led by a tripartite backcourt of Oregon signee Will Richardson, French national teamer Eddy Kayouloud and McDonald’s All-American Keldon Johnson. The 6-foot-7 Kentucky-bound Johnson leads the Warriors this season in scoring (20.5 points per game), while Kayouloud is an excellent rebounder and the Richardson serves as the team’s chief facilitator with 8.3 assists per game.
Florida-bound Keyontae Johnson, is regarded as the Warriors’ best athlete and one of the nation’s true jaw droppers. He’s Oak Hill’s second-leading scorer (18.1 points per game, 66 percent field goals, 106 steals), and lives above-the-rim, where he flushes a handful of rebounds per game.
Couple this with a true 6-foot-10 center David McCormack, and Oak Hill has a cohesive and strong frontcourt to match up against anyone. McCormack, a McDonald’s All-American and Kansas commit, has the girth of an offensive lineman and never shies away from a punishing tussle inside.
What to expect: This game is the ultimate high school basketball exception: A rematch of a regular season tussle in a national championship tournament. The Warriors won the first matchup going away en route to an 83-69 scoreline despite allowing a whopping 29 points to Sharks star Vernon Carey Jr.
So how did they do it? With superior depth and a strong performance from McCormack, who countered Carey Jr.’s 29-point outing with a solid 10-point, 10-assist double-double himself.
Given the bottom line success of Oak Hill’s approach the first time around, there’s nothing that would lead one to believe they’ll approach this game differently. It will then be up to the Sharks to counter with better shooting from everyone not named Carey Jr.
Oh, and find a way to slow down Keyontae Johnson, too. Put it all together, and University School will have absolutely earned a victory if they get there.