What we learned from Saturday’s quarterfinals at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.
Two of the biggest games Saturday were decided when an elite player took over.
No. 1 Montverde (Fla.) Academy (9-0) survived its biggest test this season when it escaped with a 62-59 defeat of unranked St. Francis (Alpharetta). Ben Simmons finished with 37 points and 18 rebounds, including the play of the day when he threw the ball off the backboard, caught the rebound and slammed it.
“I’ve seen him do that in practice, but not in a game,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “I think he was mad because he got hit in the face and he decided to do that.”
In the last game of the night, Harry Giles III, considered by many to be the top junior in the country, led No. 2 Wesleyan Christian to a come-from-behind 67-62 defeat of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Giles had 29 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, including two blocks followed by a slam on one crucial possession. While teammate Kwe Parker had a spectacular battle with Mater Dei’s Rex Pflueger with Parker having an athletic 14 points and Pflueger leading the Monarchs with 26 points, the Monarchs didn’t have a match for Giles.
“It was a great team win but obviously Harry can take us to places we aren’t going to go without him,” WCA coach Keith Gatlin said.
Watch out for St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.).
Guard play is so important at the elite level and the unranked Knights have the backcourt to compete with any team in the country. Kobi Simmons and Malik Beasley each had 25 points, giving No. 1 Montverde its toughest test this season.
“They have two guys who you can argue are top 25 players,” Montverde’s Boyle said. “The guy Beasley is terrific. Not only can he hit the standstill three, but he hit a number of pull ups the whole game. Plus, Kobi’s a big-time court. They have as good a backcourt as anyone in America, I would guess.”
Beasley didn’t disagree.
“I think we have the backcourt in the country,” Beasley said. “We play together, we work hard together.”
No. 10 Wheeler (8-0) was fortunate to escape with a win.
Jaylen Brown led the Wildcats to a 55-52 defeat of Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) with 19 points, but the Panthers, led by Franklin Howard’s 16 points, had a couple of late misses that could have made a difference.
“Paul VI is a good team,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “I told my players I was proud, but not satisfied with the win. We did a good job on defense, holding that team to 52 points.”
“Howard is a good player and he had a couple of chances at the end,” Brown said. “I’m just glad we had him pretty well defensed.”
Howard, who had 16 points, missed on a late three-point attempt that would have sent the game into overtime.
Roy Williams is a road warrior
Williams coached North Carolina to a defeat of Ohio State on Saturday afternoon in Chicago but still managed to get to the gym at Bishop Verot in time for halftime of the Montverde-St. Francis game around 10:15 p.m. He also stayed to see a little bit of Giles playing for Wesleyan Christian.