Who: No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mount of Wilson, Va.) vs. No. 5 Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.)
When: 5 p.m. ET, Friday
Where: Christ The King, Middle Village, N.Y.
About Oak Hill Academy: The Warriors moved on by holding off a game Wings Academy foe on Thursday night, but they know they must improve to get by the likes of Huntington Prep. All-everything guard Dwayne Bacon led the nation’s top-ranked and seeded team with 21 points, but even his coach Steve Smith said after the win, “he can play better.” Center Daniel Giddens was incredibly inconsistent, which is to say he was himself; he alternated between dominating in the paint and being absent, either on the court or off it with foul trouble. The saving grace for the Warriors on Thursday was big Joe Hampton, who was both terrific from three, off the dribble and backing down opponents in the paint. Hampton won’t be able to do that as easily against a big Huntington Prep squad, and Bacon’s windows for clear opportunities might be even harder to find, all of which means that the Warriors may need another player — one of the backcourt duo of Terrence Phillips or super soph Lindell Wigginton, perhaps? — to contribute some clutch shooting and clear-headed leadership to reach the finals.
About Huntington Prep: After Thursday’s victory against No. 4 seed Wheeler, there is no question that the Irish have the talent to play with anyone. The trick is determining whether they can do that for a full 32 minutes. As has plagued the Irish throughout 2014-15, Huntington looked to have left Wheeler in the dust in the fourth quarter on Thursday only to let the Wildcats right back in the game, through both slightly lackadaisical defense (you can’t leave Jaylen Brown open … ever) and sloppy ballhandling, which led to turnovers. Before the game was over Wheeler had almost magically ascended into a one-point lead. That brief edge didn’t last — the Irish won by 3 — but it showcases that the right defense can absolutely fluster Huntington, even when junior point guard Curtis Jones is at the absolute top of his game. Huntington will have to play with the aggressiveness it showed Thursday, particularly superstar center Thomas Bryant inside, and will have to do a better job of protecting the ball and shutting down the opponent’s top offensive weapon (Bacon).
RELATED: Huntington Prep outduels Wheeler
What to expect: Both teams shook off the rust from weeks out of competitive action to get off to a quick start, yet fatigue still seemed to be a factor on both benches. That will only be more true come Friday. From there, the game becomes a contest of matchups, which could be fascinating between these twos. If Bryant plays as he did against Wheeler he could do major damage in the paint. Meanwhile, if Phillips and Bacon are clicking it will be very hard for Curtis Jones to catch up, or limit them on offense. And when all things are equal, look to foul trouble. If either squad loses their top offensive threat, the game could dramatically, very quickly.