FORT MYERS, Fla. — Don’t wrestle with a pig and don’t try to go up-tempo with Chino Hills.
The No. 2 Huskies’ high-flying attack stunned No. 1 Montverde (Fla.) Academy early as Chino Hills jumped to a 16-point lead. Montverde made a few adjustments and slowly worked its way back only to fall 83-82 in a City of Palms Classic quarterfinal on Monday.
After playing little defense in a first-round defeat of Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn, N.Y.), the Huskies forced the Eagles (8-1) into 15 turnovers and countless hurried shots.
“Our guys were able to get a few days’ rest and we knew the Thomas Jefferson game wasn’t our best game,” Chino Hills coach Steve Baik said. “We knew what was at stake for this game and we knew that every possession mattered, offensively and defensively. Decision-wise, it wasn’t the best because I felt we got tired. We made it a little more difficult than it needed to be.”
UCLA signee Lonzo Ball had 29 points and six assists and LiAngelo Ball had 32 points to lead Chino Hills (7-0).
“I feel like we have the best player in the nation, regardless of position in Lonzo Ball,” Baik said. “He made unbelievable shots and they could not double him because he was going to find the open man.”
Chino Hills attempted 45 three-pointers, making 12 of them. When LiAngelo Ball hit a floater in the lane, the Huskies led 32-16 early in the second quarter. From there, Montverde, led by freshman guard R.J. Barrett with 31 points, began to chip its way back.
With 2:49 left, Barrett make a nice fake and a layup to tie the game for the first time at 72. With 1:46 seconds left, LiAngelo Ball hit a three-pointer to put the Huskies up 81-77. With 10 seconds left, Barrett hit a three-pointer to cut Chino Hills’ lead to 81-80.
LiMelo Ball then hit two free throws with seven seconds left. With time running down, Barrett was fouled attempting a three-pointer but after making the first two free throws, the third didn’t fall.
“They’re No. 1 for a reason, so we weren’t too much worried about them coming back,” Lonzo Ball said. “We knew it was going to be a close game.”
A Kevin Boyle-coached team has not lost before the semifinals in the City of Palms since 1998 when he was coaching at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) and lost 78-72 in overtime to Northwest Christian (Miami). He’s still the winningest coach in the tournament with a 39-13 record.
“I think we have a chance to be named No. 1 in the nation now, so to have this opportunity, for a little public school out in California to have that opportunity against Montverde, it’s like a dream come true,” Baik said. “We want to keep it rolling.”