SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –
For three quarters, Nick Johnson
and Michael Carter-Williams
battled back and forth for guard supremacy at the 10th Annual Spalding Hoophall Classic.
Come the fourth quarter though, the defensive prowess of Johnson and his supporting cast at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
was just too much for Carter-Williams and his St. Andrew's School (Barrington, R.I.)
Findlay (18-2), which entered the game No. 22 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, rolled to a 76-57 victory at the Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College.
Johnson (18 points) was instrumental in shutting down Carter-Williams (24 points) in the third and fourth quarter as Findlay pulled away from their 38-32 halftime lead. The 6-foot-3 senior held Carter-Williams to just two points in the third before he connected on a 3-pointer with the Pilots already out of reach 63-47.
"We talk about getting under a guys chin," Findlay coach Michael Peck said. "We kind of bum rushed him a little bit and trapped him on those ball screens, and I don't think he penetrated as real quick or as effectively."
After playing against him in AAU, Johnson (an Arizona-signee) knew what Carter-Williams (Syracuse) was capable of.
"Early in the second quarter he got by me a little bit, and then we started to contest his shots and get into him," Johnson said
Carter-Williams kept his team competitive in the first half with 14 points, including a deep 3-pointer to end the first half.
"We go into a lot of these national-level games (with) Division I talent and Michael is able to keep us in the game because he trusts his teammates," said St. Andrews coach Michael Hart. "I don't think I've been more proud of a kid in my 17 years knowing how far Michael has come as a team player. He is probably the best all-around player we have had at St. Andrews."
Said Peck: "It's never in the bag when you're playing against a team with a player like Michael Carter-Williams getting off threes. I don't feel safe until it's at a certain point."
The only player with more points in the first half? Johnson with 15.
"Nick is a great player and really competitive," Carter-Williams said. "He's one of the best in the country. He's going at me, and I'm just going to go right back at him. That's just my mentality."
Peck, primarily used Johnson, but also deployed a rotation on Carter-Williams in the second half so the guard would be unable to get used to going against one player. Winston Shepard
(10 points, game-high 15 rebounds) did a good job using his 6-8 body against the 6-5 guard at times in the fourth.
The Pilots overall depth and talent was a huge difference-maker as Nigel Williams-Goss
added 19 points and nine rebounds. St. Andrews got as close as 40-36 in the second half but never led in the game.
"I'm really proud of the kids," Hart said. "We battled and we played in my opinion the best high school team in America today. I think on a neutral court I don't see anyone beating them."