Ben Simmons, the No. 1 player in the nation, seemed a bit miffed at the response to No. 1 Montverde (Fla.) Academy’s semifinal victory against Karr in the semifinals of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.
Yes, the Eagles were held to 22 points in the first half. Yes, they trailed by five at halftime. And yes, it was their lowest point total of the season. But Montverde did win the game 52-40 and advance to the tournament title game.
The tournament was Simmons’ first chance to play in Louisiana since committing to LSU and among those there to watch him Saturday night were Pelicans center Anthony Davis, high school coaches from around the region and a whole lot of LSU fans.
Consider the message delivered as to just how good Simmons in: He posted a career-high 39 in Saturday night’s final, a 92-75 victory against two-time Louisiana state champion Riverside (Reserve). That included 31 and missing only one field goal attempt in the second half. The show included a half-court heave at the third-quarter buzzer, a nasty dunk and plenty of the moves that have made the 6-8 Simmons the most coveted player in the nation.
“This is great because I’m in Louisiana. It’s a great feeling. There were some fans out there, some hecklers, but it was all in good fun,” Simmons told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I just came here to win.”
Joked Riverside coach Tommy Byrd: “We shut out Ben in the first (quarter). That’s the No. 1 player in the country and in another year, he’ll be probably be the $100 million man. He showed why he’s a dominant player and LSU is lucky to have him. We’re lucky to have him play in our tournament. We appreciate Montverde coming out to New Orleans.”
Riverside will return the favor in two weeks, traveling to Florida for Montverde’s tournament. If the brackets hold, the teams will meet again in the tournament finals.