Who: No. 9 St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) vs. No. 11 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.)
When: Noon ET, Thursday
Where: Christ The King, Middle Village, N.Y.
PREVIEW: Newcomers look to buck trend
About St. Benedict’s: The Gray Bees are led by team character and an ascendent scorer in David “Dave” Beatty. A 6-foot-3 combo guard, the junior scored 20 points on Findlay Prep’s smothering defense in a loss at the Hoophall Classic in January. Since that setback, St. Benedict’s has captured 20 consecutive games, pushing the team’s record to 35-1. The wins include statement victories against the likes of Peddie, Huntington Prep, and two blowout victories against Our Savior New American. Beatty’s scoring touch from the outside is complemented by two senior towers on the low blocks: 6-9 center and George Washington commit Arnoldo Toro and 6-10 power forward Bourama Sidibe. The Gray Bees might not have the depth of an Oak Hill Academy or Montverde Academy, but they have plenty of talent and size, which makes them a dangerous team in the tournament … if they can get past La Lumiere.
About La Lumiere: The Lakers played one of America’s tougher schedules and still racked up an impressive 25-3 record. Some of the milestone victories along the way include tournament wins against The Patrick School and Prolific Prep, the California program helmed by top recruit Josh Jackson. The current Lakers squad’s rise has been sparked by a pair of uber-talented juniors: five-star recruits Brian Bowen, a scoring-centric 6-6 small forward, and Jeremiah Tilmon, a 6-10 center. Three-star senior guard Brandon Cyrus, a DePaul commit, helps run the offense while four-star senior center James Banks provides strength upfront alongside Tilman. He’s a Texas commit.
What to expect: This game sets up as one of the most intriguing matchups on Day 1 of DICK’S Nationals for a very simple reason: It’s a rematch. Of La Lumiere’s three scant setbacks, one came to this very St. Benedict’s squad, by a narrow 66-63 margin at the post-Christmas Slam Dunk to the Beach (you can see the full game below, if you like). There’s little question that La Lumiere has superior depth and scoring, particularly coming from a variety of positions. Still, St. Benedict’s has already pulled off this upset once this season, and it’s hard to bet against a team on as pronounced a roll as the Gray Bees.