By David Cordova
The third day of the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, which is also the final day, at Christ the King High School in Middle Village section of Queens, NY, is the event that players from all eight teams that played in this week’s tournament waited for. But there could only be two that would last.
The matchup between the final two teams would be between Montverde Academy from Montverde, Florida, the No. 8 team in the USA Today poll and a three-time winner of the tournament from 2013-15, going up against La Lumiere School of Laporte, Indiana, rated the No. 2 team in the USA Today poll, who played in last year’s championship game against Oak Hill at Madison Square Garden, and lost at the buzzer, 62-60.
Both teams steamrolled through the first two days in preparation, but for one team, it became apparent that their mission was to avenge last year’s defeat, while the other team seemed more relaxed being that they were in this position before. But this game showed that when the lights are on, it is time to rise to the occasion. In this title game, La Lumiere did just that.
La Lumiere 70, Montverde Academy 52
In the beginning of the game, Montverde struck the first blow with sophomore R.J. Barrett scoring five of the Eagles’ first seven points, as they ran off to a 7-4 lead early in the first quarter. Then senior Cameron Healy contributed to the offense by draining consecutive three-pointers, which contributed to the Eagles leading by five, 17-12 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter started with the Eagles leading by seven, 19-12, with 7:57 to go. But then La Lumiere would then resort to using a zone defense, which then hindered Montverde’s scoring. The Lakers would go on a 12-4 run to take a one-point lead, 24-23, with 2:29 to go after a three-pointer by senior Brian Bowen. But the Eagles, led by Barrett’s 14 points in the first half, would go into the half leading by one, 28-27.
As the second half started, both teams battled it out in the first couple of minutes, but then four clutch free throws by Bowen and a three-pointer by senior Isaiah Coleman-Lands helped the Lakers gain a 37-31 lead with 4:42 to go in the third quarter. Montverde junior Rechon Black would cut the deficit to four, 40-36, with 2:55 to go in the half. But then the Lakers would go on a 7-2 run to finish out the quarter, and would lead 47-38, outscoring their counterparts, 20-10 throughout the third.
The fourth would bring more enthusiasm from La Lumiere, as they would then extend their lead to fourteen, 52-38, with 6:16 to go, after a three-pointer senior by Jaren Jackson, Jr. Montverde would get as close to ten points, with a layup by Barrett, only trailing 56-46, with 4:11 to go in the game, but the Lakers would hang tough for the rest of the game, emerging as the victors and earning a national championship.
Jackson, committed to Michigan State, led La Lumiere with 17 points and five rebounds, Bowen added 15 points and seven rebounds, senior Jordan Poole contributed 13 points and sophomore Tyger Campbell also contributed 10 points and seven assists. For Montverde, Barrett led with 25 points and seven rebounds in the loss.