SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – So far, the three-day Hoophall Classic has lived up to its billing as one of the country's premier high school boys basketball showcases.
Some believe it is the very best.
Tournament officials certainly saved the very best for last as Monday's line-up of elite teams and matchups is unmatched - topped off with the marquee game between St. Patrick (St. Elizabeth, N.J.), MaxPreps.com's No. 1 team in the country, versus No. 7 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).
Behind senior guard Kyrie Irving and the country's top-rated junior forward Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick (10-0) defeated Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) on Saturday in the Garden State, 70-50. The Duke-bound Irving had 24 points and Gilchrist contributed a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Gilchrist is back after sustaining a recent knee strain while attempting to take a charge. A relentless competitor having already made a big mark both during the school and AAU circuit, Gilchrist was supposed to be out two weeks but returned for his second game since the injury.
Findlay also arrives coming off a victory on Saturday, this one at the Flyin’ To The Hoop event in Dayton, Ohio. The Pilots defeated Benedictine (Cleveland, Ohio), 64-60, behind their pair of likely All-Americans in Tristan Thompson (17 points and 10 rebounds) and Cory Joseph (14 points).
It was a better Ohio stop than the last time for Findlay, which was knocked off by No. 3 Northland (Columbus, Ohio) the week prior to Christmas. It also knocked Findlay off the nation's No. 1 spot.
Oak Hill Academy head coach Steve Smith, whose 15th-ranked team was defeated Saturday by Northland at the Hoophall, thinks the Findlay-St. Patrick contest should be a classic.
“Findlay has a tough team again this year and I haven’t seen St. Patrick’s play yet but Coach Boyle and I are good friends and you can bet he’ll have them ready,” Smith said.
Northland’s Jared Sullinger has his team in the hunt to move up from it’s No. 3 national ranking following their win over Oak Hill, and especially if Findlay beats St. Patrick.
“That game is a big one but I don’t want to get into all that,” Sullinger said. “I will say our win brings a lot of spirit to Columbus. A lot of people came out to see us play and anything we can do to uplift the community is a positive.”
In other action Monday:
* No. 11 St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.) takes on the Kendall Marshall-led Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) to start the day’s action at 11 a.m. St. Benedict’s starts five future Division I players while Marshall is headed to North Carolina.
* The afternoon features No. 14 Westchester (Los Angeles) taking on St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) and No. 5 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) meeting No. 17 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), leading into the St. Patrick-Findlay game at 3 p.m..
Westchester features two of the nation’s top unsigned prospects in point guard Jordin Mayes and swingman Dwayne Polee while St. Anthony counters with a frontcourt of Devon Collier (Oregon State) and Ashton Pankey (Maryland).
DeMatha boasts high-octane seniors Victor Oladipo (Indiana) and Jerian Grant (Notre Dame) along with highly sought-after junior Quinn Cook. Mater Dei brings the three-headed perimeter monster of Gary Franklin (California), Keala King (Arizona State) and Tyler Lamb (UCLA).
Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) 54, Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 50
Four-year starter Tony Chenault was back where he started, hitting clutch free throws down the stretch to push Neumann-Goretti, ranked 16th in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, past a game Simeon squad.
Chenault played as a freshman alongside current Syracuse players Antonio Jardine and Rick Jackson when Neumann topped the Kevin Durant-led Montrose Christian team at the 2007 Hoophall Classic.
The Wake Forest-bound senior guard scored eight of his team’s first 12 points to start the third quarter to take a 32-16 lead, one Neuman would never relinquish.
Like Chenault then, another first-year player made his mark at the Hoophall this year. Simeon’s Jabari Parker, the lone freshman to attend the prestigious NBA Players Association Top 100 camp in June, had 16 points and eight rebounds.
Parker scored twice in the final minute and Dayton-signee Brandon Spearman hit a big 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points. But Chenault and La Salle-bound Tyreek Duren connected from the line to give Neumann the final margin.
St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.) 72, Newton North (Newton, Mass.) 57
This was originally supposed to be a matchup against Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.) but undefeated Newton North showed as the replacement.
No matter for St. Frances, which pushed its lead to as many as 23 early in the third quarter and coasted to the victory behind senior guard Dante Holmes’ 23 points and 10 rebounds and junior big man Greg Lewis’ 21 points and seven rebounds.
Greg Kelly led Newton North with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Tantasqua (Fiskdale, Mass.) 63, Cathedral (Springfield, Mass.) 47
Jake Gubitose scored 26 points and Matt Phillips had 11 points with 10 rebounds as Tantasqua outscored Cathedral 21-9 in the deciding quarter. Jordan Couture had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Wareham (Mass.) 80, Westfield (Mass.) 58
Wareham led 27-24 at the half and opened up the third quarter with more points than their first two combined – 28 – to run away from Westfield. Jordan Rezendes scored 18 points, Jule Tavares had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Pat Murphy went for 14 and Ryan Pina had 13 for the winners.
Alex Garstka scored 17 in the loss.
Groton-Dunstable (Groton, Mass.) 52, Sabis (Springfield, Mass.) 48
Ryan Romich had 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added a key tie-up on the defensive end following a potential game-tying 3-point miss by Andre King, who led Sabis with 13 points.
Chicopee (Mass.) 48, Bishop Hendricken (Warwick, R.I.) 47
Jesus Sanchez had a big double-double of 17 points and 16 rebounds as Chicopee went on a 7-0 run to pull away in the fourth quarter and knock off the Rhode Island state champions of the past six consecutive years. Nick Manning had 11 for the Hawks.
DeMatha’s Victor Oladipo, wearing an Indiana Hoosiers T-shirt, beat Simeon’s Jasper Golding in the finals of the dunk contest. … Mater Dei’s Gary Franklin won the 3-point shootout in an extra round with Sabis’ King. Each finished with 13 but Franklin won the shoot-off 15-11. … DeMatha’s James Robinson and Simeon’s Tywon Pinckney teamed up to win the skills challenge.