Who: No. 4 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) vs. No. 5 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.)
When: 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Where: Christ The King (Middle Village, N.Y.)
About Findlay Prep: Ranked No. 3 in the Super 25, the perennially powerful Pilots are once again poised to make a run at the GEICO High School Basketball Nationals’ title. Entering the event’s 10th year, Findlay Prep is tied with Montverde (Fla.) Academy with three national titles, although the Pilots haven’t taken the crown since 2012 after also winning in 2009 and 2010.
Findlay is 31-4, with all four of its losses coming against fellow national powers Memphis (Tenn.) East, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), Montverde and Kansas’ Sunrise Christian. The game at Montverde in the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament was the Eagles’ toughest test to date, as it took a last-second 3-pointer for Findlay to fall, 69-67. There were plenty of quality wins as well for the Pilots, who defeated Immaculate Conception (Montclair, N.J.) at the Hoophall Classic, IMG Academy at the Cancer Research Classic, Morgan Park (Ill.) at the Jordan Brand “Like Mike” Invitational, Paul VI (Va.) at the Chick-fil-A Classic, and in-state rival Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) at the Big City Showdown. New York is the 12th state in which the well-traveled Pilots will have played this season.
A team rife with Division I-bound seniors, Findlay could certainly see itself hoisting the championship trophy once again. Leading the way this year has been 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol, an Oregon commit and the son of the late Manute Bol. A McDonald’s All-American, Bol has been hampered by an Achilles injury, so his ability to play is in question. When healthy, Bol has led the Pilots in points (20.4), rebounds (8.2) and blocks (2.4) per game. Kyler Edwards, a 6-foot-4 wing player and Texas Tech commit, can also score from outside and inside, while 6-foot-8 Arkansas pledge Reggie Chaney is a force down low. The Pilots also get plenty of contributions from 7-foot-3 Memphis commit Connor Vanover, 6-foot-10 San Diego State pledge Nathan Mensah and 6-foot-5 UMBC signee Jack Schwietz.
Aside from unparalleled size down low, the calling card for this national power coached by Paul Washington may be their depth. With eight current or former NBA alumni, it is easy to see why.
About La Lumiere: The Lakers enter as the defending GEICO Nationals’ champion, having knocked off current favorite Montverde (Fla.) Academy in last year’s final. This year, under first-year head coach Pat Holmes, they are currently No. 6 in the Super 25. With experience on this big stage under their collective belts, don’t be surprised if the Lakers make some noise once again.
La Lumiere is 23-3, with all three losses coming to nationally-ranked opponents at major events. Those include Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, Montverde and Kansas’ Sunrise Christian. Among the signature wins this season were a 61-51 dispatching of Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter and a 63-51 win over Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions.
The Lakers’ starting five features three seniors and two juniors, and the roster as a whole includes players from Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Croatia. Leading the way is senior Tyger Campbell, a 6-0 point guard and UCLA verbal commit who averages 15.8 points and 7.7 assists a game. Down low, 6-foot-9 junior forward Isaiah Stewart from Rochester, N.Y., is a force (20.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg), using his 7-foot-4 wingspan to his advantage on both the offensive and defensive ends. Stewart gets assistance in the post from Loyola (Chicago) commit Franklin Agunanne, a 6-foot-10 center from Nigeria. On the perimeter, 6-foot-4 junior Paxson Wojcik and 6-foot-2 senior Grant Beucler are playmaking threats.
What to expect: The teams faced each other last year, as La Lumiere came away with a 69-54 win at the Cancer Research Classic. Of course, that was nearly 15 months ago, and the primary characters involved on the court have changed. The battles near the basket should be fun to watch, as there is no shortage of size on either team and rebounding prowess on either team. The outcome could largely hinge on Bol’s status for the game.
Both programs play national schedules and have been on this stage before. Whether Findlay’s Edwards or La Lumiere’s Campbell get hot from behind the 3-point line could be the difference in this battle that appears too close to call.