November 28, 2021

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GEICO Nationals: Top seeds IMG Academy, Sunrise Christian escape in closing seconds

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WATCH: Baylor signee Kendall Brown, IMG forward Jarace Walker discuss first-round wins

The Buffaloes and the Ascenders came away with wins in the closing seconds early Thursday afternoon. Watch Kendall Brown and Jarace Walker after their wins.

Alex Martin, Fort Myers News-Press

The GEICO Nationals high school boys basketball quarterfinal games took the court on Thursday as eight of the top teams in the nation compete for a national championship. The tournament continues through Saturday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at FSW in Fort Myers.

Sunrise Christian (Kan.) 56, Prolific Prep (Calif.) 55

HIGHLIGHTS: Sunrise Christian’s defense stepped up when it needed to most in the final seconds.

After Gradey Dick missed the front end of a one-and-one, Prolific’s Kamari Lands went down the court, and four Buffaloes swarmed the ball. Lands’ shot came up just short and went in off a tip-in try from Jordan Pope, but just after the buzzer sounded.

“That was them just playing,” Sunrise Christian coach Luke Barnwell said. “I would’ve preferred to not have four guys on the ball, but I think the pressure bottled him up and he kind of panicked. Ideally, we stay matched up and I told them to switch everything, and we didn’t switch everything. We played like third-grade basketball. Everyone just went to the ball.

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

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

“Thankfully it didn’t hurt us, and (Kamari) didn’t kick it or move it or anything. They had some guys open.”

The Buffaloes will advance to the semifinals to take on IMG Academy tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

RECRUIT WATCH: Baylor-bound Kendall Brown led all scorers with 21 points while grabbing four rebounds and adding a pair of steals. Brown didn’t have any turnovers in 32 minutes of play.

The 6-foot-8 forward had a number of game-changing moments late, including a dunk to give the Buffaloes a brief lead with just under three minutes to play.

“We got down by four or five in the closing minutes of the game,” Brown said. “We knew as a team that we’ve been in this position before in many games. And we knew we just needed to stay calm and play defense.”

“The first game is always the hardest. We just got to go back, regroup, and be ready for the next one.”

Brown will be watching his future school Baylor in the Final Four on Saturday and hopes the Bears make it to the title game on Monday night.

“It’s great I’m going to be there next year,” Brown said. “Can’t wait to get down there. Those are my boys, and I hope they can pull it out.”

STATS: The Buffaloes shot 44.8% from the field, compared to Prolific’s 45.4%. The Crew outrebounded Sunrise Christian, 29-27. Sunrise Christian’s defense forced 14 turnovers while committing just nine.

Tennessee signee Kennedy Chandler had 11 points, three rebounds, five assists, and seven turnovers. Kansas signee Zach Clemence added 12 points and six boards for the Buffaloes.

In the loss, Oregon signee Nate Bittle had 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while Stefan Todorovic had 12 points. Lands ended the game with 10 points and seven rebounds.

— Alex Martin

IMG Academy 73, Milton (Ga.) 68

HIGHLIGHTS: Down 58-41 midway through the third quarter, Milton never folded.

The Eagles came back to get within one of IMG in the final minute, but that’s as close as they would get.

A key and-one by Jarace Walker, followed by buckets from Eric Dailey Jr. and Jaden Bradley put the game on ice as IMG escaped with the quarterfinal victory.

“That play was huge,” IMG coach Sean McAloon said. “It actually got us back to where (the margin) was. Jaden got downhill, and Eric is one of our leading scorers, and we put him in the corner, and they had to make a decision on whether they were going to stay with Jaden or go to Eric, and Eric knocks down the three.

“Big play from Jarace, big play from Eric, and we needed it at the time for sure.”

RECRUIT WATCH: Walker, who is a consensus top-10 recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, and Rivals, ended the game with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding seven rebounds, three blocks, and a pair of assists.

Walker possesses notable offers from Michigan, North Carolina, Auburn, and Maryland, and found out about the news of North Carolina coach Roy Williams retiring this morning.

“It was really tough to hear that,” Walker said. “He had a great career as a coach. A great guy. Was really helping his team win.”

Ohio State verbal Bruce Thompson had 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting while grabbing six rebounds. He came one assist shy of a double-double, with nine.

“We always fight back and never stopped playing,” Thompson said. “We kept fighting back, but they’re a good team. Coach always told us to believe, and the game is never over until there’s zero’s in the fourth quarter. We feel like we fought back, and we came up short, but it’s all good. I feel like we fought as a team and showed who Milton High School is.”

STATS: The Ascenders shot 50.8% from the field, compared to Milton’s 37.1%. Milton’s Kanaan Carlyle had a game-high 22 points on 7-of-23 shooting. Bradley had 20 points for the Ascenders. In total, seven players ended the game in double figures between the two teams.

— Alex Martin

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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

GEICO Nationals

at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at FSW, Fort Myers

Wednesday, March 31


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

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

Thursday, April 1


Game 3 — (3) IMG Academy 73, (6) Milton (Ga.) 68

Game 4 — (2) Sunrise Christian (Kan.) 56, (7) Prolific Prep (Calif.) 55

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

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

Friday, April 2


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

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


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)

Follow The News-Press and Naples Daily News Sports Writer Alex Martin on Twitter: @NP_AlexMartin. For the best sports coverage in Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.

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