Round One of the 2018 GEICO High School Nationals is in the books. Here’s a look at the top five performances from the first day of action.
1. Steven Ashworth
Lone Peak, a 6-A public school in Highland, Utah, was nearly responsible for the most improbable upset in the history of the GEICO High School Nationals Tournament.
After trailing by 14 points at the end of the first half, Lone Peak roared back in the second half behind a magnificent performance from senior guard Steven Ashworth. Ashworth went 0-for-8 from the field in the first half, but poured in an incredible 29 points in the second with 7 three-pointers using a 78-percent success rate.
Ashworth had the crowd on their feet in Thursday’s game as the Utah State signee began pulling-up from well-beyond the three-point arc only to splash in shot after shot.
Upon watching the two teams in warm-up, no one gave the Knights much of a chance against top-ranked Montverde. Lone Peak gave up both size and strength at every position on every single possession against Montverde.
To put that statement into greater perspective, head coach Kevin Boyle used nine different players against Lone Peak. Eight of those players are either already signed, committed or receiving interest from Division I schools.
As for Lone Peak, Steven Ashworth is the only player that’s signed to play Division I basketball (Utah State signee). Lone Peak’s second highest-scorer Ross Chantry will play next season at Westminster College (a Division II school in Salt Lake City) and senior leader Max Brenchley splits his time with basketball and being one of the state’s top golfers.
Simply put, on paper, Lone Peak had zero business competing against a prep powerhouse like Montverde Academy. Nevertheless, the Knights continually battled as the team followed their senior leader Ashworth into unprecedented territory.
With 19.8 seconds remaining, Lone Peak gained possession of the ball with a chance to win with the game tied at 82. However, the Montverde defense turned up the intensity and forced Lone Peak into calling a timeout that the Knights did not have. The Eagles went onto win by a score of 87-82 after the technical foul free throws and one last critical stop on defense.
Still, despite the heartbreaking loss, Lone Peak displayed an inspiring resilience that started at the top with Ashworth. The nation’s consensus top ranked player in R.J. Barrett defended Ashworth for much of the fourth period and he played without fear.
Make no mistake about it, this was an all-time great performance at the GEICO High School Nationals.
2. R.J. Barrett
If it wasn’t for the eye-popping performance from Steven Ashworth, then it would have been R.J. Barrett who received all the headlines after Thursday’s full slate of games.
After scoring 26 points in the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday, Barrett traveled overnight to New York City to catch up with his teammates for their first round game against Lone Peak. If there were any corresponding concerns about potential fatigue or jet-lag as a result of the quick turnaround, those questions were quickly dispelled in the first period when Barrett threw down a monster left-handed jam which led to an immediate Lone Peak timeout.
Barrett uses his size and strength with crippling results. Even if Barrett doesn’t beat his defender off the dribble, he’s lethal at muscling his way to the basket and drawing fouls. Barrett went to the free throw line 20 times against Lone Peak, making 15 of his attempts and finishing with 33 points.
R.J. Barrett looks like a man with a mission after one round at the GEICO Nationals.
3. Kyler Edwards
At the end of the first half, the Findlay Prep offense looked somewhat stagnant against the defending national champions of La Lumiere School as the Pilots trailed by a score of 25-18 at the break.
In the third quarter, Findlay Prep came alive as the Pilots outscored La Lumiere by a 27-8 margin.
Texas Tech signee Kyler Edwards was the catalyst for the big run. Edwards finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. Edwards found a large portion of his points on mid-range jumpers. The 6-foot-4 guard showcased his ability to hit jumpers off the dribble and also when using screens.
Texas Tech can expect to receive an elite shot-maker next season in Lubbock. Edwards is terrific at creating his own opportunities, in addition to being an effective spot-up shooter. He’s especially deadly when taking open jumpers in transition.
Edwards is the type of player that can swing the momentum of a game with his timely shot-making.
4. Keyontae Johnson
Oak Hill Academy sent two players to the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday in Atlanta. Senior standout Keyontae Johnson was not one of them, but that didn’t stop head coach Steve Smith from calling him Oak Hill’s most consistent performer this season.
“Keyontae has been our most consistent player all-year long. Not taking away from anybody else, but game-in and game-out, he’s going to rebound and he’s going to defend and usually gets us about 18 points… He’s played great for us,” Smith said.
The 6-foot-5 senior overpowered the smaller Garfield lineup with his size and strength to finish with a game-high 19 points in the 75-53 Oak Hill win.
Next year at Florida, Gators fans can expect to receive a physical forward with explosive power in the paint. Johnson will need to improve upon his outside shooting if he hopes to become an even more dynamic offensive threat. However, if Johnson can add that element to his game, he possesses the potential to become a truly dominant forward in the college game.
5. Scottie Barnes
Vernon Carey Jr. led the way for NSU University School by scoring 20 points, but sophomore Scottie Barnes finished as the team’s top performer with a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Barnes is a consensus top-10 prospect in the Class of 2020.
With Carey next season and Barnes in 2020, University School could have two players in consecutive years participate in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Barnes is an especially exciting prospect, because he can do it all for his team. At 6-foot-6, with strength, Barnes is a handful offensively. Barnes is the type of player that battles hard for his points and also commits to playing focused defense on the other end of the floor.
Barnes finished with two steals in Thursday’s game, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect how many turnovers he helped create for University School. The 6-foot-6 wing just has a knack for being around the ball and creating positive opportunities for his team to get out and score in transition.
As just a sophomore, Barnes already showcases great physicality in the post. If he continues to grow and also develop his outside shooting, Barnes has the potential to be something extremely special at the next level.
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