By Sean Moran
Day four of the City of Palms offered a break for the high school teams in attendance while showcasing six teams in the tournaments Signature Series. With only three games on tap, the schedule was light, but the play was anything but.
Game 1: Montverde (Post Grad) 96 Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 87
Northfield Mount Hermon is often referred to as the Wisconsin of high school basketball. Crisp ball movement, floor spacing, and three’s from all over the court. The New England power was expected to cruise to an easy victory in their first game at the City of Palms; however point guard CJ Jackson and Montverde Prep had a different idea. Coached by former Tar Heel Dante Calabria, Montverde was well prepared on the defensive end anticipating cutters and challenging deep three’s. Towards the end it looked like Montverde was going to give up the lead but timely baskets from Jackson and forward Kouat Noi (17 points, 6 rebounds) held off the final charge from NMH. Senior guard Bryce Thurston was the top shooter for Montverde hitting four deep three’s throughout the game.
CJ Jackson, 6’3”, PG, Montverde, Post Grad
The post-grad point guard was the top player of the day. He finished with a game high of 39 points with 25 of those coming in the second half. He attacked the basket off the dribble, finished in traffic, knocked in floaters, and connected from deep. Jackson handled the NMH pressure with ease and caught fire from deep in the second half connecting on at least four shots from beyond the arc.
Game 2: La Lumiere 61 Danube City (Austria) 46
The talented La Lumiere squad got off to a fast start and never looked back. Led by 11 first half points from sharp-shooter Jalen Coleman-Lands, La Lumiere jumped to an early lead. As one of the top shooters in the country, Coleman-Lands’ high arcing shot found the middle of the net on each attempt. He wasn’t the only starter to play well. Australian big man Isaac Humphries finished with a near double-double. The 260 pound center was immovable down low and despite looking a bit slow-footed at times Humphries possessed a good set of hands and some textbook post moves with an up and under move and right handed jump hook. Point guard Munis Tutu (11 pts, 8 asts) from Canada used his quickness to penetrate the lane for lay-ups or easy looks for his teammates.
Game 3: Potter (FL) 54 Balboa City (CA) 51
The headline of the final game of the day revolved around two talented young big men. 6’11” Deandre Ayton is the top sophomore in the country, while 6’11”, 260 pound Udoka Azubuike is a five-star junior. Ayton stole the show early with a near double-double in the first half with 14 points and nine rebounds on 7-10 shooting. He caught a tip dunk to start the game and finished the first quarter with two lay-ups and another dunk. In the second quarter he continued to score close around the basket but also added a deep jump shot from the top of the key. Potter clawed its way back and ended up winning by three points in overtime with Azubuike finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Ayton ended the game with 23 points and 20 rebounds and was active in every phase of the game. An extremely quick leaper, Ayton dominated the boards, but was also active throwing three-quarter court passes, running the floor, blocking shots, and creating steals.
Spotlight: Brandon Cyrus, 6’4”, G/F, 2016, La Lumiere
The Southern California native provided a sparkplug to La Lumiere in their opening game of the tournament finishing with 10 points. The athletic slasher attacked the basket and finished above the rim several times in the second half. “I just try to come in and bring energy and a fire to my team,” said Cyrus. “I come in and do everything. If we need a three I can hit a three. If we need a dunk I can dunk. The last couple of games we’ve played really well, the team has bonded so far.”
The four-star junior has received interest from a variety of schools and the first three he listed were all from the west coast. San Diego State, Arizona State, and California are the three schools in constant contact with Cyrus, but now other Midwest schools such as Kansas State and Butler are expressing interest in addition to Wake Forest.
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