MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — R.J. Barrett has pretty much swept all the Player of the Year trophies this season, but there was one thing missing from his resume until Saturday — a GEICO High School Nationals championship.
Barnnett had 25 points and 15 rebounds and Mike Devoe had 21 points, including five crucial three-pointers, to lead No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) to a 76-58 defeat of No. 2 University (Fort Lauderdale).
“It’s the cherry on top of everything that happened in my high school career and it means a lot,” Barrett said.
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said he’s not about to dwell on how this title compares to his other national championships, even though it’s his first true undefeated squad. In 2014, Montverde was unbeaten, but that was because a loss to Curie (Chicago) was reversed because of Curie having an ineligible player.
“I have a short attention span — my wife always busts me about it,” Boyle said. “I can’t take it for granted that we will be back. If we lose, it doesn’t kill me that much. If we win, I’m satisfied but relieved. I feel I’m my most focused when I’m under a lot of pressure. I felt pressure that we had to win this year. We had the best player, the best shooter and a good mixture of guards and bigs.”
Devoe made all of his second-half shots.
“This season was great,” Devoe said. “We finished as national champions. Coach trusted me to make shots and my teammates found me.”
It was the fourth national title for Montverde (35-0) since the first High School Invitational was aired on ESPN in 2009, breaking the record of three titles the Eagles had shared with Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). It was Montverde’s first title since winning three in a row from 2013-15, when Ben Simmons played for Montverde.
“We did a good job of spacing and moving the ball,” Boyle said.
Another big player for the Eagles was Andrew Nembhard, who had 13 assists and eight points.
“Last year, Andrew had a horrific experience where he had stomach problems and about five months later he came back,” Boyle said. “He’s such a selfless kid. R.J. has gotten so much deserved recognition and (Andrew) is happy for him. He’s a true friend. He doesn’t mind being a part of something great. He’s going to be like C.J. McCollum and play in the NBA for 12 years. Forget basketball, you couldn’t have a better son than him.”
Scottie Barnes had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 2-ranked Sharks (36-2) while Vernon Carey had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Barnes is just a sophomore and Carey a junior, so there’s a good chance they will be back in the tournament next year.
“It really does motivate us to come back here and try to win it,” Barnes said. “It’s just a blessing to be in it. I don’t back down from anybody. (Barrett) is a good player, but I’m not backing down from nobody.”
Nembhard hit a layup just before the half to put the Eagles up 35-26 at the break. Barrett nearly had a double-double in the first two quarters with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Barrett was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The rest of the team included Nembhard, Carey and Barnes from University and Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) guard Steven Ashworth.
Follow Jim Halley on Twitter at: @jimhalley