MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. – As a four-time winner at GEICO High School Nationals, Montverde (Fla.) Academy no stranger to the proverbial bull’s-eye.
On Thursday, the Eagles had to contend with University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who they rolled by 18 points to win last year’s GEICO Nationals title game.
It was no cakewalk this time around, but in the end the Eagles managed to run-off with a 65-57 win in the opening round of GEICO Nationals.
Harlond Beverly led the Eagles with 25 points, Precious Achiuwa added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Vernon Carey Jr., who left the game with an injury with just over two minutes left in regulation, led the Sharks with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Scottie Barnes added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“Scottie said to me in the handshake line after the game that he’d see me next year so I knew he would be ready,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “They’ve got great players in Scottie and Vernon that will have a chance to play in the NBA so it’s a good win. To me we looked rusty, but a lot of the teams do because we haven’t played in a while. Obviously, you have to give them credit, but we didn’t play well today.”
The Sharks brought the energy early on, beating the Eagles to 50-50 balls and balancing out their offensive attack to claim a 17-13 lead after the first quarter.
The Eagles took their first lead of the game, 23-22, on an Achiuwa runner off the glass with 1:43 left in the first half and led 31-26 at halftime. Montverde closed the first half on a 14-4 run.
After going 0-4 in the first half from the three-point line, Caleb Houstan and Moses Moody drained two clutch threes in the final few minutes to extend the Eagles’ lead late.
University School coach Jim Carr praised Montverde for being “a great team,” but wanted it noted that Carey “wasn’t even close to being 100 percent.”
“It was definitely frustrating,” Carey said. “I’m just trying to get my ankle healthy.”
The Eagles will face IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) Friday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2) in the semifinals.
“It’s a big game,” Boyle said. “We really don’t have a rivalry with them, we’ve only played them once in my eight years at Montverde, but they’re a great team. We’ll have to play a lot better if we’re gonna beat them.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY