RALEIGH, N.C. – The last time DeAndre Ayton and Kevin Knox met on the court was a regular season matchup in the Nike EYBL.
In that game, Ayton posted 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead Cal Supreme past Knox and E1T1 (Fla.) 96-82 on April 23. Knox led E1T1 with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET, they’ll meet again, this time for the John Wall Holiday Invitational T.J. Warren Bracket title.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Knox said. “We’re young so to get two quality wins has been good for us. Now we need one more.”
Knox scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead Tampa Catholic (Fla.) past Robinson (Concord, N.C.) 96-75. Ayton scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) past Cannon School (Concord, N.C.) 72-64 Thursday night.
“It’s a big opportunity,” Ayton said of winning a title. “This is our chance to show the world what Hillcrest can do.”
Ayton is the top-ranked player in the ESPN 100 and Knox checks in at No. 7.
“He’s tough to guard, for sure,” Knox said of Ayton. “We’re all gonna have to step it up.”
Knox said the Crusaders will focus on pushing the tempo and turning Ayton into a perimeter player.
“We’ve gotta keep him out of the paint as much as possible,” Knox said. “He likes to hang out there by the three-point line so we’ll need to keep him there and just get out and run. I know that I’m faster than him and I think if we can control the pace we can beat them.”
Ayton said the Bruins have to annoy Knox in order to get him off of his game.
“He’s a very streaky player,” Ayton said. “The way I stopped him in the EYBL was to keep on running with him and getting in his face, talking trash and things like that. I could tell he didn’t like it so that’s what I’ll have to do tomorrow.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY