SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –
A defending public school state champion now holds a pair of wins over two national academy powers after Saturday’s action at the Spalding Hoophall Classic. Ohio State-bound senior big man Jared Sullinger and lead No. 3 Northland (Columbus, Ohio) to a 47-46 last second victory over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Sullinger was able to play despite a broken nose that forced him to don a protective mask. Other stars ticketed for the event at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College weren't as fortunate.
Fellow senior post player Josh Smith of Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) had to sit out his team’s game after re-aggravating a leg injury earlier in the week. Standout junior guard Austin Rivers went down with the first sprained ankle of his career that forced him to miss the fourth quarter of Winter Park’s eventual victory. Rivers later left on crutches. The status of top-of-the-class junior forward Michael Gilchrist is also in doubt for Monday’s big matchup featuring No. 1 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) and No. 7 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). Word is he will.
Sullinger and Northland defeated Findlay Prep in December, ending the Pilots' 45-game winning streak. But the future Buckeye wasn’t dealing with a protective mask or facing a triangle-and-two defense in that contest.
“That was the first time I’ve seen a double team at all times but I just kept playing hard and trusted our system,” Sullinger said. “That’s the third time I’ve broken my nose, too. After a few minutes I had to lose the mask but was able to play on and fortunately we got the win.”
It was the play of J.D. Weatherspoon that carried Northland with Sullinger limited to just three points (16 rebounds by the Oak Hill defense.
Weatherspoon finished with 21 points on 7 of 13 from the field – many coming around the rim – and 7 of 9 from the free throw line.
“That’s Batman and Robin,” Northland head coach Satch Sullinger said. “You can stop one but you can’t stop both.”
Underclassman Trey Burke (junior point guard) and Jalen Robinson (sophomore forward) also helped shoulder the load.
Oak Hill entered the fourth quarter with a 35-27 lead, but Northland countered with a 20-11 rally in the final eight minutes.
Sullinger and Oak Hill center Baye Moussa Keita were involved in most of the drama down the stretch.
Northland attempted to inbound the ball in the final minute and pressure on the passer forced a poor entry to Sullinger, who was guarded by Keita and prevented a catch that saw the ball sail out of bounds.
Oak Hill took possession and Doron Lamb drew a switch on a pick-and-roll that ended up with Sullinger guarding him at the top of the key. Lamb drove to the rim and found Keita open inside, who was fouled. Keita hit two big free throws with 28 seconds to play.
Sullinger brought the ball up the floor and played point forward for the final Northland shot, beating Keita to the basket and drawing his fifth foul.
“Trey came up to me and told me to just smile and that it’s like I’m always in this situation,” Sullinger said about his late free throws. “I trusted Trey and just had fun with it.”
Despite an Oak Hill time out designed to ice Sullinger, he connected on both attempts.
On the final possession of the game, Lamb drove to the basket again but Sullinger came with weak side help to punch the shot out of play. Instead of sailing to safety, however, it landed in the hands of a wide-open Keith Hornsby. The Oak Hill junior missed an open jumper and Northland escaped with its second win over a nationally-ranked opponent this season.
“One thing we’re going to do is defend against anybody and everybody,” Jared Sullinger said. “We’re winners. It doesn’t matter who’s out there – Kobe or whoever.”
Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith said it was one of those nights for his team.
“We missed a lot of open shots that usually drop and that we were hitting all week, free throws included. Pe’Shon Howard had a bunch of open threes that he would usually hit and Roscoe Smith is a high 80 percent free-throw shooter,” Smith said. “These guys will have to buckle down and bounce back. They were disappointed in the locker room but we huddled after I talked to them and we’ll rebound.”
Lamb finished with 13 points and Howard had 11 for Oak Hill.
Winter Park (Fla.) 73, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 69
It went down to the wire as Tyler Thornton delivered time after time to keep Gonzaga within a basket, but Winter Park’s 3-point specialist John David Swanson picked his spots well to help seal the win while without an injured Austin Rivers.
Winter Park came out hot from the start with a pair of big dunks from Rivers that brought the crowd to its feet.
Gonzaga would still hold a halftime lead at 28-27 behind 10 points from Cedrick Lindsay.
In the end, however, it was Rivers who scored 21 points in his limited time to lead all four of Winter Park’s double figure scorers – senior big man Adam Jones with 16, Brett Comer with 15 and Isaac Turner adding 12.
Rivers’ sprain came while trying to split two defenders in the open floor midway through the third quarter. He had just hit three straight 3-pointers and Winter Park held a 51-45 lead.
Gonzaga had its own four who finished in double figures with Lindsay scoring a team-high 21 points. Duke-bound Tyler Thornton finished with 18, freshman Kris Jenkins had 14 and Malcolm Lemmons added 10. Combining for all of the team’s 17 makes on 18 attempts in an impressive effort from the free throw line were Lindsay, Jenkins and Lemmons.
Kinston (N.C.) 60, Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) 37
North Carolina signee Reggie Bullock scored 26 points and snared 12 rebounds as Kinston pounded Kentwood, which was overmatched again in a major national event without the services of UCLA-bound Josh Smith, a 6-10, 280-pound senior.
Dallas Best added 12 points for Kinston.
Jason Boyce scored 15 points in the loss for Kentwood.
Half Hollow Hills West (Dix Hills, N.Y.) 75, Sacred Heart (Waterbury, Conn.) 56
Led by All-American candidate Tobias Harris, Hills West pulled away from Sacred Heart in the second half after leading by just seven at halftime.
Harris was all over the court finishing with a big double-double of 36 points and 16 rebounds to go with three blocks and two steals in 31 minutes.
It was a game of dynamic duos as junior point guard Tavon Sledge put in 27 points for Hills West, while Sacred Heart’s Corey Andrews went for 27 points and Josh Turner had 25 in the loss.
Springfield Central (Springfield, Mass.) 74, Columbia (Huntsville, Ala.) 63
Shooting close to 50 percent from the field and taking advantage of Columbia’s 0 for 17 effort from 3-point land, Springfield Central opened the third quarter on a 9-3 run as Jordan Smith finished with 23 points, Jaylen Brantley had 19 and Victor Aytche provided 17 in the morning win.
Derek Kelly scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss.
Duke assistant Nate James and Connecticut assistant Andre LaFluer watched their respective recruits Tyler Thornton and Roscoe Smith…Austin Rivers’ father and coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics Doc Rivers said his son would likely see a Duke game this year and that he’s back and forth everyday between the Blue Devils and Florida, the school he committed to as a sophomore. Rivers added about his son’s injury, “Just like the Celtics. I told him get in line with Garnett, Wallace and the others.”