Wesleyan 62, Mater Dei 59
A generation ago, Keith Gatlin used to throw lob passes to the late Len Bias when they played at the University of Maryland.
Former University of North Carolina guard Kenny Smith was on the court for some of those Bias slam dunks. So the NBA on TNT analyst was shouting for his son and his son’s teammates to be on the lookout for that play late Saturday night in the 42nd Annual Culligan City of Palms Classic quarterfinals.
Gatlin, now the coach at High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian, the No. 2 team in USA Today’s Super 25 rankings, guided the Trojans to a 67-62 victory against No. 6 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.
By doing so, Wesleyan Christian ended a 46-game Mater Dei winning streak, one of the longest of 33-year coach Gary McKnight’s career.
Mater Dei’s La’Vette Parker, left, reacts to fouling out against Wesleyan Christian in the final minutes of their quarterfinal game Saturday during the 42nd Annual Culligan City of Palms Classic at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers. Wesleyan Christian beat Mater Dei 67-62.
“We’ve got to start another one on Monday,” McKnight said.
Instead of Gatlin to Bias, Gatlin the coach deployed Brandon Childress to Kwe Parker.
On assists from Childress, son of former NBA and Wake Forrest guard Randolph Childress, Parker had a pair of second-half slams that boosted his teammates.
“When he dunks, we get motivated,” said Wesleyan Christian forward Harry Giles, one of the top juniors in the nation.
Giles led all scorers with 29 points, making 10-of-17 field goals and 9-of-11 free throws with University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams watching from near courtside.
“We knew about the winning streak,” Giles said. “We just had to play basketball. We didn’t worry about that.”
Rex Pflueger, a Notre Dame signee, led the Mater Dei Monarchs with 26 points.
Gatlin called the victory huge for his program.
Asked if this loss would help his team in the long run, McKnight shrugged.
“I hate to lose,” he said. “Losing is just something I don’t like.”
Montverde 62, St. Francis 59
Ben Simmons had an historic Classic performance, scoring 37 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in leading Montverde Academy, ranked No. 1 in USA Today’s Super 25, to a narrow 62-59 victory over Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis in a quarterfinal game at the City of Palms Classic Saturday night.
The victory boosted Montverde Academy’s tournament winning streak to 11 games. The Eagles have not lost since the semifinals in 2011, to Arlington (Tex.) Grace Prep.
St. Francis has three Division I-bound players. Florida State-bound Malik Beasley had 25 points and seven rebounds. Kobi Simmons had 25 points and four rebounds.
But Ben Simmons made a pair of free throws followed by a steal — across the court just a few seconds later — in preserving the victory.
“He did a great defensive job,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “He’s just so athletic. And he has exceptional anticipation. He just has a sense of the next play their guys are going to try to make.”
Montverde guard Howard Washington scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers.
Simmons, who signed with LSU, said he had no problem contributing on both sides of the court.
“To me, it’s easy, man,” Simmons said. “I’m running back. I got the steal at the end. Their team had a lot of energy and quickness. It was a pretty big challenge.”
Trinity 62, Oak Ridge 57
Christian Tieneman and Raymond Spalding each had a double-double for the Shamrocks as they erased a five-point halftime deficit and won.
Tieneman, a Marshall commit, poured in a team-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Spalding, who is committed to Louisville, had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Super recruit Antonio Blakeney led all scorers with 28 points for Oak Ridge but did so on just 8-of-28 shooting.
“He is a great player,” Trinity coach Mike Szabo said of Blakeney. “He did a great job in the first half and we made some adjustments in the second half. We forced him into some tough shots. When we got the lead, that forced him to try and maybe do a little bit too much.”
Oak Ridge was looking become the first Florida public school since 2010 to qualify for a Classic semifinal since Austin Rivers’ Winter Park team.
The Pioneers will play again next in a fifth place semifinal game on Monday at 3:45 p.m.
Wheeler 55, Paul VI 52
Wheeler of Marietta, Ga., played its way into the semifinals with a victory over Paul VI of Fairfax, Va.
Wheeler blew a nine-point halftime lead early in the second half and then survived when Paul VI missed its final four shots trying to tie the game.
Jaylen Brown, Wheeler’s highly touted senior guard/forward, led all scorers with 19 points. He also was the game’s leading rebounder with nine.
Wheeler next plays in Monday night’s late game at 9:30.
Wheeler led all the way in the first half, but frittered away its advantage quickly in the third period. Paul VI scored the first nine points to tie the game at 33-33 and then a minute later took its first lead, 35-34.
It was close the rest of the way.
Wheeler finally reclaimed the lead early in the fourth quarter highlighted by Brown’s one-handed driving thunder dunk and held it the rest of the way.
Paul VI had four shots to tie the game in the final 14 seconds but missed all four. Three of the misses were by Syracuse recruit Franklin Howard.