Montverde, Central Valley victorious at GEICO Nationals
Apr 03, 2018 | 2765 views | 0 0 comments | 146 146 recommendations | email to a friend | print
R.J. Barrett, a Duke recruit and one of the top basketball players in the country, led Montverde Academy to a title at the GEICO Nationals. (Photos: Jeffrey Armstrong)
R.J. Barrett, a Duke recruit and one of the top basketball players in the country, led Montverde Academy to a title at the GEICO Nationals. (Photos: Jeffrey Armstrong)
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University school junior forward Vernon Carey dunks in the teams win over Oak Hill.
University school junior forward Vernon Carey dunks in the teams win over Oak Hill.
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By Bryan Fonseca

bfonseca@queensledger.com

Like last year, RJ Barrett was the most dominant performer at the annual season-ending National Tournament at Christ the King High School.

But unlike last year, Barrett’s performance, which saw him average 25 points and eight rebounds per game, did not go in vain, as his number-one seeded Montverde Eagles beat the second-seeded University School Sharks, 76-58, in Saturday’s championship between the two Florida-based clubs.

Barrett, who was the top-ranked sophomore by ESPN at this time last season before reclassifying up one year to the graduating class of 2018, will attend Duke University this coming fall and is a favorite to be the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Along with teammate Andrew Nembhard, University School’s Scottie Barnes and Vernon Carey Jr, and Lone Peak High School’s Steven Ashworth, Barrett was named to the GEICO National All-Tournament team, while also winning the Most Valuable Player award.

He also became the tournament’s all-time leading scorer.

“This was the cherry on top of the cake for the season and time here at Montverde,” said Barrett, who recorded 25 points and 15 rebounds in Saturday’s championship game, his last with Montverde. “We’ve been working on this since August.”

The win for Montverde marks their fourth national title in six seasons after reaching the final for a seventh time in nine years. It also gave Montverde a perfect 36-0 season to take back to Florida.

“Winning never gets old,” said head coach Kevin Boyle moments after overseeing his first undefeated season as a head coach. “This group restored us to the top again. Ben Simmons and D’Angelo Russell didn’t go undefeated, but this team did. They are a credit to our school and the program.”

It wasn’t all good for the top seeds, though.

On the girls’ side, Hamilton Heights of Tennessee and Central Valley of Washington handled their respective competition in round one, setting up a 10 a.m. meeting on Saturday to kick off the championship doubleheader.

Central Valley led at the half, 36-26, before Hamilton Heights outscored the third-ranked Bears 17-5 in the third period, taking a 43-41 lead into the fourth. The timely buckets and clutch play of Stanford commit Lexie Hull proved to be the difference, as she netted 26 points and 10 rebounds, one day after finishing with 30 points, 13 rebounds and four steals in a 70-57 win over Westlake High School in the semifinals.

As a result, Hull earned MVP honors.

“It’s amazing, so surreal,” said Central Valley head coach Fred Rehkow. “It was a big win against a big team.”

Teammate Camryn Skaife earned an All-Tournament mention, along with Jazmine Massengill, Elizabeth Balogun and Esmery Martinez of Hamilton Heights.

University of Tennessee-bound Massengill followed up 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks in the semis with a tournament-high 32 points, six assists and five rebounds in the finals.

Martinez had six points and seven rebounds in the finals, but erupted for 17 points and a tournament-best 18 rebounds in round one.

Skaife had 25 points in the two games, and Lexie’s twin sister Lacie, who is also headed to Stanford, had nine points and eight boards in the championship.

“It was the perfect ending,” said Lacie. “A great journey and, like coach said, very surreal.”
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