Montverde Academy and Findlay Prep are historically the two most successful programs at the GEICO High School Nationals. The prep powerhouses have accounted for six of the event’s nine national champions and at least one of the schools has participated in the title game on seven different occasions.
With the regular season at its conclusion, Montverde and Findlay Prep are again positioned to qualify for the event and compete for a national championship.
In the aftermath of last month’s dramatic finish that saw senior Michael Devoe pour in a last second three-point basket to give Montverde the win over Findlay Prep — here’s some of my observations on the two programs as they continue to build towards Nationals.
MONTVERDE ACADEMY (32-0)
It wasn’t until the month of January that Montverde faced its first legitimate scare of the season. Talen Horton-Tucker and Chicago Simeon rolled into the Hoophall Classic with big aspirations of taking down the nation’s top-ranked team. Simeon gave undefeated Montverde everything that it could handle before coming up short thanks to some excellent defense by the consensus No. 1-ranked player in R.J. Barrett.
The Eagles again found themselves in a tight battle on Jan. 27th versus Findlay Prep and on Feb. 9th against Roselle Catholic. In both games, Montverde found a way to win thanks to some late-game heroics.
The highly-anticipated showdown against Findlay Prep wasn’t always pretty to watch. Both teams made their fair share of mistakes and missed a number of crucial free throws. Despite the miscues though, head coach Kevin Boyle’s club kept on fighting and received some buzzer-beater magic from Devoe (Georgia Tech signee) to win by a score of 69-67.
Roselle Catholic nearly came up with a massive upset at the Metro Classic in Union, New Jersey. The Lions led by six points with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation, but Barrett would not be denied. The 6-foot-7 Duke signee poured in an incredible seven points in the final 28.4 seconds to propel Montverde to the victory.
As the regular season reaches its conclusion, I’d like to see Montverde share the basketball with the same level of unselfishness that the Eagles showcased in certain sequences against Findlay Prep. The Eagles were difficult to stop in the possessions where the team furiously passed the ball around the perimeter and found senior Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga signee) in the high post to spread the floor.
Barrett is rightfully touted for his play-making ability, but the 6-foot-6-inch Duke signee is also an improved passer. The backcourt presences of Devoe and Andrew Nembhard (Florida signee) can additionally survey the floor exceptionally well.
Montverde would do-well to take advantage of these talents in their half court sets. The Eagles have the ability to effectively run the fast break, but the team’s utilization of their incredible depth by moving the basketball on every possession should provide them with a major upper-hand.
There’s no team with a deeper pool of talent than Montverde Academy.
FINDLAY PREP (28-4)
Findlay Prep came painstakingly close to snatching a huge road win over Montverde in January. If that game would have been held in Henderson, NV or at a neutral site, I think the result may have been different. Instead, the Pilots will likely look back at the costly turnovers and missed free throws as being the deciding factors in the loss.
The Pilots suffered another close defeat in early February after coming across a red-hot Sunrise Christian Academy team. The Buffaloes won three consecutive games against teams that were then ranked in the top five of the Super 25 (No. 2 Oak Hill, No. 4 St. Benedict’s Prep and No. 5 Findlay Prep).
Even still, the Pilots should draw a lot of positives from their recent performances. In addition to nearly defeating Montverde on the road, Findlay Prep needed to take down one of the top teams in the country in 10th-ranked Shadow Mountain to even reach the title game at the M.A.I.T. Invitational.
One of the more interesting storylines of Findlay Prep this season has been the position change of senior shooting guard TJ Moss (undecided). Since the injury of point guard Jamie Lewis (Wake Forest signee), head coach Paul Washington has asked the 6-foot-4 Moss to be the primary ball-handler for the team.
After watching the game against Montverde, you never would have guessed that Moss was thrusted into the point guard position after the injury of Lewis. The Findlay Prep offense was clearly at its best with Moss distributing the ball and dictating the pace of the game. Head coach Frank Martin of South Carolina has been pursuing him heavily in recent weeks.
Of course, you can’t talk about Findlay Prep without at least mentioning the star-power of Bol Bol. If you have not had the opportunity to see the 7-foot-3 Oregon signee from Findlay Prep, you’re missing out on witnessing the next special talent at the center position.
Bol’s father, Manute Bol, is well-known as being the tallest player in NBA history. During his professional career, Manute quickly proved himself to be an elite shot-blocker, but didn’t provide much in terms of offensive production. Bol Bol is different in that he possesses a similar skill set to Joel Embiid with his ability to knock down shots and also surprisingly handle the ball away from the basket.
In addition to Bol, seniors Reggie Chaney (Arkansas signee) and Kyler Edwards (Texas Tech signee) are also critical to the success of Findlay Prep. All things considered, the Pilots certainly have the talent and depth to win their fourth national championship.