The first round of holiday tournaments wrapped up late Wednesday night with Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.) beating Winter Park (Fla.) in the final of the City of Palms Classic. The victorious Cougars were the biggest mover in this week’s Xcellent 25 presented by the Army National Guard, elevating from No. 21 to No. 7.
And did we mention that there is a new No. 1? After a wild five days at events in Florida, Hawaii and South Carolina, Jared Sullinger and Northland’s (Columbus, Ohio) seismic win over Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was almost swept away.
Expect plenty more movement in the next Xcellent 25 release (Jan. 6, 2010) as many of the teams listed below will be involved in grueling tournaments where they will be asked to play four games in four or five nights.
Xcellent 25 National High School Boys Basketball Rankings
1. (No. 2 last week) St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), 0-0
Last week’s No. 1-ranked team is nearing its 20th game of the season, so it does feel a little strange to put a team this untested this late in December in the top spot. But we will stay with our preseason pecking order and put the target on head coach Kevin Boyle’s squad heading into the post-Christmas MaxPreps Holiday Classic in San Diego. After two games were wiped out by the weather last week, the Celtics will finally get their season underway Dec. 26 at Torrey Pines High School against Ironwood Ridge (Tucson, Ariz.).
2. (3) Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 15-0
The Warriors swept a pair in Ohio on Monday and Tuesday, beating Columbus Walnut Ridge (87-56) and Cincinnati Princeton (68-47). Doron Lamb and Roscoe Smith combined for 35 points in the Princeton win. Oak Hill Academy heads to Hillsboro, Ore., next for the Les Schwab Invitational.
3. (4) Yates (Houston, Texas), 11-0
The Lions beat four teams in five nights to capture the Iolani Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, including a 97-96 win over Philadelphia Neumann-Goretti in the final. High-scoring guards Brandon Peters and Joseph Young were honored as co-MVPs of the event. Yates’ next test comes at the T-Mobile Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 29-30.
4. (5) Northland (Columbus, Ohio), 3-0
The Vikings sent shockwaves through high school basketball last week by stunning then-No. 1 Findlay Prep, 53-52, in a nationally-televised game to end the Nevada power’s 45-game win streak. Ohio State-bound Jared Sullinger scored 32 points and grabbed 17 boards in the win. The defending Division I state champions pillaged Columbus Centennial 95-49 a day later. Sullinger is averaging 26.7 points and 14.0 rebounds per game.
5. (6) Bloomington South (Bloomington, Ind.), 7-0
Butler recruit Erik Fromm and junior Dee Davis each chipped in with 17 points as the Panthers upped their winning streak to 33 games with a 67-53 win over previously-unbeaten Center Grove on Tuesday night. Next up for South on Dec. 30 is Carmel, which features a pair of 6-10 towers in junior Alec Peterson and sophomore A.J. Hammons.
6. (8) DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), 8-0
The Stags prepped for a trip to Puerto Rico with a 76-61 win over St. John’s as 6-foot-8 junior Mikael Hopkins scored 16 points and grabbed 10 boards. While DeMatha’s 8-0 start has gone a bit under the radar, games against three ranked teams are on the slate after the New Year.
7. (21) Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.), 4-0
Paterson Catholic has put a tremendous amount of talent on the floor in recent years, but hasn’t been able to escape the shadow of fellow New Jersey powers St. Anthony, St. Benedict’s and St. Patrick. The Cougars took a step toward the light Wednesday with a monumental tournament victory at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. The Cougars topped Austin Rivers and Winter Park (Fla.) in the final, a team that had pulled off impressive back-to-back victories in the days leading up to the championship game. Paterson Catholic reached Wednesday’s ESPNU-televised game with wins over Fort Myers (Fla.), then-No. 16 Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.) and Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.). Although a controversial technical that helped send the game into overtime was the prevailing story in the Montverde Academy contest, PC dominated the extra session. Head coach Damon Wright’s crew is the real deal with a roster that includes at least seven future Division I players.
8. (1) Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), 15-1
The Pilots responded to the Northland loss by reeling off four wins in a row at the City of Palms Classic, including an 86-75 victory over Winter Park (Fla.). Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Jabari Brown are all averaging over 16 points per game.
9. (11) Melrose (Memphis, Tenn.), 12-0
The Golden Wildcats have dismantled every team on their schedule, including a 97-49 win over Memphis Hamilton and a 93-41 drubbing of Byers (Holly Springs, Miss.) last week. Melrose is averaging 89.2 points per game heading into the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, where teams from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Virginia and Canada await.
10. (14) Ames (Iowa), 5-0
The Little Cyclones made a major statement on national television last Wednesday by smoking Illinois 4A runner-up Waukegan, 87-59. Player of the Year candidate Harrison Barnes scored 26 points and snared 13 boards in front of nearly 6,500 fans on the campus of Iowa State University. Ames followed with a 99-50 win over Fort Dodge the next day. Contenders in Iowa have to be a little disheartened about their chances of knocking off the defending 4A state champions.
11. (NR) Winter Park (Fla.), 9-3
What to do with the Wildcats? It’s waaay too early in the season for a three-loss team to be ranked this high, but Winter Park has a win over Montverde Academy and dealt both St. Benedict’s Prep and Milton their only loss of the season. They also played Findlay Prep tough. Credit head coach David Bailey for playing arguably the most challenging schedule in the country thus far. It gets tougher next week with a trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the T-Mobile Invitational where a Winter Park-Yates final could materialize.
12. (14) St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.), 4-1
The Gray Bees fell victim to Winter Park in the semifinals of the City of Palms Classic as Austin Rivers torched them for 45 points. But Danny Hurley’s squad responded in impressive fashion, throttling Montverde Academy, 64-45, behind 19 points and four assists from junior guard Myck Kabongo. St. Benedict’s also posted wins over Sagemont (Weston, Fla.) and St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.) in Fort Myers.
13. (10) Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.), 10-1
Despite a quarterfinal loss to Winter Park, the City of Palms Classic has to be considered a success for the senior-less Eagles. Milton went 3-1 with wins over Dunbar (Fort Myers, Fla.), St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.) and Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the fifth-place game. Junior forward Julian Royal posted 23 points and seven rebounds against Westchester. Classmates Dai-Jon Parker and Shannon Scott combined for 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals.
14. (15) Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.), 7-1
Taft took care of business at the Mission Prep Christmas Classic in San Luis Obispo, Calif., beating Ballou (Washington, D.C.) in the championship game and drumming North Hollywood Campbell Hall by 29 in the semifinals. A possible showdown with No. 1 St. Patrick could be in the cards at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, but the Toreadors will have to get by a loaded half of the bracket that includes Los Angeles powers Fairfax and Price, McClymonds of Oakland, Lawndale Leuzinger and unbeaten Mesa, Ariz. – Taft’s first-round foe.
15. (18) Christ School (Arden, N.C.), 14-1
Junior wings Tony Kimbro and Damarcus Harrison earned All-Tournament honors as the Greenies captured one of two brackets at the Chic-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C. Kimbro and Harrison combined for 29 points in the finals as Christ School knocked off Charlotte Christian, 60-57.
16. (24) Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), 5-0
The Dolphins solidified their claim as Chicago’s best with a 62-55 win over Simeon on Saturday night. Junior Sam Thompson stepped up against Simeon with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Whitney Young will have a big target on its back at the 49th annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament beginning Saturday with Hinsdale Central.
17. (21) Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.), 5-0
Ray McCallum dropped in 34 points as the Yellowjackets handily defeated Ohio State-bound Deshaun Thomas and Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) on Tuesday night at the Midwest Basketball Challenge in Indianapolis. Country Day gets two more out-of-state tests at the Motor City Roundball Classic Dec. 28 and 30. Madison Memorial (Wis.) and Lew Wallace (Gary, Ind.) are lined up to try and slow down McCallum and company.
18. (NR) Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.), 5-1
Behind the play of Division I-bound guards Tony Chennault (Wake Forest) and Tyreek Duran (LaSalle), the Saints beat Kaimuki (Honolulu, Hawaii), Kinston (N.C.) and Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) to reach the finals of the Iolani Classic. Neumann-Goretti took unbeaten Yates to the wire before losing 97-96. Chennault and Duran combined for 48 points in the championship game.
19. (7) Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.), 7-2
The Comets were thinking much bigger than a 2-2 showing at the City of Palms Classic. Montverde Academy and Milton beat the defending California Division I champions, who will have to get back on track quickly with a trip to Hillsboro, Ore., for the Les Schwab Invitational looming. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.) and Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) are Xcellent 25 hopefuls that would love to reach the finals at Westchester’s expense with a possible matchup against Oak Hill Academy as the reward.
20. (23) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), 7-1
The Monarchs returned from a 10-day absence and dominated Goleta Dos Pueblos on Tuesday night, 76-36. Arizona State-bound wing forward Keala King led the way with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Orange Holiday Classic (Dec. 26-30) at Chapman College in Anaheim is next for Mater Dei.
21. (NR) Federal Way (Wash.), 7-0
Washington’s defending Class 4A state champions have rattled off some impressive wins early on, including a 22-point stomping of Josh Smith and Kentwood on the road and a sweep of California squads Long Beach Poly and Oakland Castlemont last week in Portland, Ore. Head coach Jerome Collins has led the Eagles to wins in 35 of their last 37 games.
22. (9) Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), 6-1
After two lopsided wins over Hawaii squads, Neumann-Goretti jumped up and bit Stu Vetter’s bunch in the semifinals of the Iolani Classic in Hawaii. Montrose didn’t exactly roar back, beating Columbia (Decatur, Ga.), 48-45. Yates and Whitney Young both posted 20-point wins over the same squad, for comparison’s sake. It’s fair to say the jury is still out on this talented team.
23. (NR) Northeast (Oakland Park, Fla.), 9-0
The Hurricanes were one of the big winners of the pre-Christmas tournaments, putting together an impressive four-game run en route to the championship at the Hawk Kreul Classic. The highlight may have come in the quarterfinals where Northeast knocked off then-No. 17 Brandon Knight and Pine Crest of Fort Lauderdale, 55-51. Now a target of struggling UCLA, senior guard Jelani Hewitt captured MVP honors. No rest for these ‘Canes as the 16-team Great Florida Shootout in Kissimmee is on the schedule beginning Dec. 26.
24. (NR) Lincoln (Dallas, Texas), 14-0
The Tigers continued their run of perfection with wins over Dallas foes Wilson (72-54) and Bryan Adams (86-54) last week. Lincoln is getting regular double-figure scoring efforts from star junior LeBryan Nash, senior DeKabrien Eldridge, junior Keaton Miles and sophomore Courtney Hopper.
25. (NR) Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.), 9-1
The Stallions – whose only loss came to Montverde Academy on Dec. 5 – also had a nice run over the past five days, going 4-0 while playing games in both of South Florida’s big events. Led by the combination of 6-9 Florida-bound forward Patric Young and future Kentucky Wildcat Stacey Poole, Providence captured the eight-team Florida Challenge bracket at the Hawk Kreul Classic, then dipped over to Fort Myers to beat one-loss Miami Dr. Krop on Wednesday in a City of Palms Classic showcase game. It doesn’t get much better defensively than the Stallions, who are allowing just 40 points per game on the season.
Dropped out: No. 12 White Station (Memphis, Tenn.), No. 16 Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.), No. 17 Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), No. 20 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), No. 22 Rice (New York, N.Y.), No. 25 Jefferson (Portland, Ore.)
Other schools appearing in the Xcellent 25 this season: Holmes (Covington, Ky.), Madison Memorial (Madison, Wis.), Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.), Waukegan (Ill.), Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)