November 28, 2021

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GEICO Nationals basketball: Oregon commit Nathan Bittle, Prolific Prep hang on; MJ Rice leads Oak Hill

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Four top high school boys basketball teams played what amounted to play-in games on Wednesday night in the GEICO Nationals for the eight-team draw that begins Thursday and continues through Saturday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at FSW in Fort Myers.

Prolific Prep (Calif.) 45, La Lumiere (Ind.) 43

HIGHLIGHTS: The Lakers whittled a 12-point deficit to two and had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Jeremy Fears’ 15-footer didn’t fall.

Stefan Todorovic led the Crew with 12 points and got his own rebound of his missed free throw, was fouled and made 1 of 2 with 5.7 seconds left for the final margin.

The Crew will play No. 2 Sunrise Christian (Kansas) in the quarterfinals of the national championship tournament Thursday at 2 p.m. 

RECRUIT WATCH: Oregon commit Nathan Bittle, a 7-foot senior, had eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 27 minutes.

“We came in and struggled in the first half, the second half we kind of got in a rhythm,” Bittle said. “We continued to play hard.”

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Watch: Oregon commit Bittle, FSU commit Cleveland on GEICO Nationals

Oregon commit Nathan Bittle, Florida State commit Matthew Cleveland, and top recruits Chisom Okpara and M.J. Rice highlighted the GEICO Nationals on Wednesday.

Greg Hardwig, Fort Myers News-Press

Bittle, who picked Oregon over Gonzaga and UCLA in September, said he watched the Ducks’ loss to USC in the regional semifinal over the weekend. 

La Lumierie’s Chisom Okpara, a 6-7 junior, had a game-high 15 points, and buried a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left. Okpara and 7-0 junior Vincent Iwuchukwu (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) battled inside against Bittle and 6-10 junior Adem Bona, who had 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. 

“It just makes me better, makes him better too,” Bittle said.

“It was very difficult,” Okpara said of the matchup inside. “They were very big and long.”

Okpara rattled off Yale, Stanford and Harvard, plus Providence, Vanderbilt and Penn State as possible schools, but said he isn’t in a rush to make a decision, and hopes if the coronavirus pandemic wanes, recruiting will open up even more.

“Me and my dad are taking our time right now,” he said.

STATS: Neither team could get going from 3-point range. La Lumiere was 2 of 11, and Prolific Prep was 2 of 14, with Todorovic making the only two, and both of them in the first half.

More: GEICO Nationals: IMG looking to go back-to-back; Montverde, Sunrise Christian seeking title

More: Who are the top players to watch in this week’s GEICO Nationals high school basketball event?

More: GEICO Nationals: Field is set for high school boys and girls hoops showdown in Fort Myers.

Oak Hill Academy (Va.) 84, Pace Academy (Ga.) 77

HIGHLIGHTS: Oak Hill, ranked 21st and seeded ninth, built a 13-point lead, but the Knights rallied to tie it at 71-71 with 2:52 to play, but seemed to run out of gas. 

Caleb Foster had 23 points to lead four players in double figures for Oak Hill, which advances to meet No. 1 Montverde on Thursday.

RECRUIT WATCH: M.J. Rice, a 6-5 junior small forward, who is No. 10 on the ESPN Junior 60, had 18 points and 4 rebounds for Oak Hill. He’s got Boston College, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, and Pittsburgh as his top schools.

“I’ll probably make my decision in the middle of (next) season,” Rice said.

Pace’s Matthew Cleveland, a 6-7 senior, committed to Florida State last summer. He had a game-high 30 points.

“It’s just fun being here, just being able to come with my coaches and my teammates,” Cleveland said. “Playing a powerhouse school that I’ve seen on TV many times before, it’s just good to get out here and play them.

Cleveland committed to the Seminoles after receiving 26 other offers, almost all from Power 5 schools.

“Just going to a school that I knew, was familiar with, and seeing wings just like me be successful and do their thing … It’s just like a family environment to me,” he said.

STATS: Oak Hill’s Foster went 5-of-8 from 3-point range and teammate A.J. Williams, who had 19 points, went 3 of 7. Camryn Carter was the fourth in double figures with 16 points.

Cleveland added 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Josh Reed, a 6-7 junior, had 21 points and Cole Middleton, a 6-6 senior, added 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals.

GEICO Nationals

at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at FSW, Fort Myers

Wednesday, March 31

Boys

(7) Prolific Prep (Calif.) 45, (10) La Lumiere (Ind.) 43

(9) Oak Hill Academy (Va.) 84, (8) Pace Academy (Ga.) 77

Thursday, April 1

Boys

Game 3 — (6) Milton (Ga.) vs. (3) IMG Academy, noon (ESPNU)

Game 4 — (7) Prolific Prep (Calif.) vs. (2) Sunrise Christian (Kan.), 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

Game 5 — (9) Oak Hill Academy (Va.) vs. (1) Montverde, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Game 6 — (5) Wasatch Academy (Utah) vs. (4) AZ Compass Prep, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)

Friday, April 2

Girls

Paul VI (Va.) vs. Lake Highland Prep, 10:30 a.m. (ESPNU)

Fremont (Utah) vs. Westlake (Ga.), 12:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Boys

Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, April 3

Girls final, 10 a.m. (ESPN2)

Boys final, noon (ESPN)

Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/

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