By Sean Moran
After two intense semi-finals, the championship match-up is set. Montverde Academy beat Trinity (KY) 52-42 to advance to their third straight final and Wheeler outlasted Wesleyan Christian (NC) in the last game of the day. The top two seniors in the country square off in Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown. Simmons scored 16 points in his semi-final and Brown finished with 28 points including a perfect 13-13 from the free throw line. While Wheeler has talent behind Brown it certainly doesn’t have the depth and skill of a Montverde. The past two years Montverde has used its size and depth to wear out teams in the championship game and this year will likely be no different.
Kobi Simmons, 6’5”, PG, 2016, St. Francis (GA)
In a game that featured high level talent and elite athleticism, Kobi Simmons stole the show. In an 85-75 victory over Oak Ridge (FL), Simmons was at the top of his game scoring 37 points in addition to seven rebounds, three assists, and only one turnover while shooting 13-19 from the field. Simmons did it all and it started with a hot first quarter. He took shorter guards off the dribble, connected on deep jump shots, and was unstoppable on the break. Players such as Malik Beasley (Florida State), Alex Owens (Providence), and Antonio Blakeney were all on the court, but it was the 6’5” junior point guard that was head and shoulders above everyone on the court. After the game, Simmons noted that “pretty much everybody” was recruiting him.
Jaylen Brown, 6’7”, SF, 2015, Wheeler (GA)
The unsigned senior finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead his team to the championship game. In a back and forth contest, Brown scored consistently in each quarter and then hit all of his free throws in the final minutes to ice the victory. In the first half, Brown was unstoppable driving to the basket utilizing a right-handed in and out move before crossing over to freeze the defender and subsequently exploding for a lay-up or powerful dunk. In the second half, Brown added a three from the left wing in addition to his powerful moves to the basket.
Joseph Toye, 6’6”, G/F, 2015, Whitney Young (IL)
Whitney Young lost a close game to Wayne (OH), but senior wing Joseph Toye continued his strong senior season. If he keeps trending in the right direction, it looks like Vanderbilt will be getting an extremely underrated recruit. Toye was very efficient in both halves starting the first half with 11 points on 5-7 shooting. He exploded for 13 points in the third quarter and finished with 26 points and eight rebounds on 10-15 shooting. Known for his high flying ways, Toye had his share of athletic finishes at the basket, but he also had his shot working. He hit two three’s with a game tying three go half way down before spinning out. He also hit a contested, high arcing pull-up from the left baseline in addition to a one dribble pull-up from the right wing later on. Wayne’s 1-3-1 made it hard for Toye to touch the ball in the last few minutes and this was also when Whitney Young gave up their lead. If Toye can stay consistent with his outside shot he will definitely have a chance to make an impact in the SEC next year.
Harry Giles, 6’10”, PF, 2016, Wesleyan Christian (NC)
Giles put together a remarkable first quarter showing why he is considered a probable top draft pick in 2017, but then went quiet the rest of the game. A Chris Webber clone, Giles put on a show early on. In a one minute span in the first, Giles grabbed a defensive rebound, brought the ball up the court, and hit a deep jumper from the top of the key (with a foot on the line). The next possession, the 6’10” Giles caught the ball several feet behind the three point line on the left wing, took two dribbles against his defender before pulling up for a swish. Giles also added a step-back three in the first half and finished with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. The second half was a bit different as Giles struggled to get touches down low and missed some easy shots at the rim. He finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but could not continue his monstrous first half performance in a close loss.
Ahmad Wagner, 6’7”, F, 2015, Wayne (OH)
Senior forward Ahmad Wagner recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four blocks. Last year, Whitney Young had a big guy that some people might have heard of in Jahlil Okafor, but this year they are a guard oriented team that can is susceptible to strong play down low. Wagner did the dirty work and keyed the last few minutes for Wayne with his clutch play as a small deficit turned into a three point lead. On the night, Wagner was 8-10 and was crucial to his team’s success.
Malik Monk, 6’4”, SG, 2016, Bentonville (AR)
After a quiet first two games in the City of Palms, Monk got a chance to show off his skills in an early morning game against Reserve Riverside Academy (LA). Monk finished 5-6 from the floor and 2-3 from the three point line while finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. For a long stretch in the second half, Monk faced a box and one defense. He didn’t try to force the issue and never settled for three’s. He drove to the basket, putting pressure on the defense and ended up 11-13 from the line. In years past Monk might have been content to fire from behind the arc, but in the second half he only took (and made) jump shots that were wide open.
Devearl Ramsey, 5’10”, PG, 2016 / Remy Martin, 5’11”, PG, 2017, Sierra Canyon
Sierra Canyon’s quickness at the guard spots was too much for Webster Groves (GA) to handle. Devearl Ramsey scored 13 points and dished out six assists to go along with four steals, while Remy Martin finished with eight points, four assists, and three steals. Both guards created havoc on the defensive end and got deep into the lane anytime. The younger Martin also showed off some deceptive leaping ability on several of his drives to the basket.
Corey Manigault, 6’8”, PF, 2016, Paul VI
Paul VI is led by VJ King and Franklin Howard, but Corey Manigault was the key in a 57-56 overtime victory over Mater Dei. Manigault finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds on 6-12 from the field and 9-10 from the line. Manigault was a large target for the Paul VI guards and possessed solid footwork and good hands when converting in the paint against M.J. Cage.
Ben Simmons, 6’8”, SF, 2015, Montverde (FL)
It wasn’t a typical performance for the top recruit in the country, but when the game ended he was Montverde’s leading scorer and another championship game awaited his team. In the first half, Simmons played fairly nonchalantly scoring five points. He started the game with a fast break dunk and fade-away three from the wing but didn’t score at all in the second quarter. He turned up the defensive pressure in the third resulting in steals and in turn a variety of fast break dunks and lay-ups. All five of his second half shots came from the paint with all four of his makes being either dunks or lay-ups. Simmons ended the game with 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals, and two blocks.
Christian Thieneman, 6’5”, SG, 2015, Trinity (KY)
Christian Thieneman left everything he had on the court. He was Trinity’s top player in the first half when he hit 3 out of 5 three’s and put up 14 of his team’s 25 points. The shots stopped falling in the second half, but Thieneman continued to give a great defensive effort. He primarily guarded Simmons throughout the game and frustrated the five-star prospect in the half-court setting with a bit of physical play. He bodied Simmons up in the post, despite giving up three inches and moved his feet to stay in front of Simmons on his drives. He only scored one point in the second half, but was the main reason his team stayed in the game as long as they did.
Senior guard Franklin Howard (Syracuse) and junior wing V.J. King combined to go 6-31 from the field, but Paul VI still hung on for the victory. King forced Mater Dei star Rex Pflueger (Notre Dame) into a 5-15 shooting performance while also grabbing nine rebounds. Howard corralled 13 boards and dished out six assists (although he also had seven turnovers).
Rex Pflueger struggled from the field, but looked quicker and more explosive. He finished at the rim several times and on the defensive side he came over for a weak side block on the taller King.
Where’s Raymond? Louisville commit, Raymond Spalding started to turn his vast potential into production over the summer. Tonight he laid low and finished with just eight points. In the third quarter he scored back to back baskets (one off a steal and the second after slipping a pick) and it looked like he was about to take over for Trinity, but instead he struggled from there on out and did not have one of his finer performances.
In the last game of the night, several underclassmen stood out including 6’2” sophomore guard Darius Perry who hit a crucial three to give Wheeler a lead they would never relinquish. For Wesleyan, junior wing Jalen Johnson showed off elite athleticism and junior guard Michael Buckland led the team in scoring with his hot outside shooting.
Calling all college basketball fans!! Don’t miss a minute of the exciting ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament this coming March! The 2015 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship will be held March 11 through March 14, 2015 at GREENSBORO COLISEUM (GREENSBORO, N.C.). For tickets, follow the links below.
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