30 down, one to go
Talk about dodging bullets.
Top-seeded La Lumiere survived five shot attempts by No. 4 Oak Hill in a frantic final 19.9 seconds, escaping Friday’s semifinal matchup at the GEICO Boys High School National Tournament, 58-57.
“We like to make it entertaining for everybody,” Lakers coach Pat Holmes said by phone from New York. “It’s fun. We’ve been in these situations before (like Thursday) and sometimes they’re self-created, but it was a good back-and-forth game with really good players on both teams. It was very reminiscent of a few years ago when we lost to (Oak Hill) in the national title game to where they kind of played volleyball and their third shot went in. They had a great look that rimmed in and out at the end of the game. We were definitely fortunate.”
La Lu’s Gerald Drumgoole missed the front end of a one-and-one, leading to the protracted final sequence that also included three timeouts and four Oak Hill tries from close range.
Cam Thomas, whose 22 points led all scorers, had a last-gasp corner 3-point attempt off an inbound pass fall short to send the Lakers (30-0) to the title game with No. 3 IMG Academy. In the first semifinal, IMG rallied to edge defending champion and No. 2 Montverde Academy 74-73 after trailing by 16 points entering the fourth quarter.
Following Thursday’s double-overtime victory, the Lakers showed no signs of early fatigue, racing to a 22-11 advantage after the opening frame. The script flipped with a 19-4 second quarter fueled by Cole Anthony that surged Oak Hill in front 30-26. The Lakers missed 10 of their 11 shots in the period as Oak Hill (37-5) moved to a zone look defensively.
“The zone really jumped it up a little bit for them,” Holmes said. “Our man sets, when our guys go out and execute, we’re tough to guard and that’s what we saw early on in the first half, but they definitely upped their pressure and with us, we weren’t able to get good, clean looks. In the second half, we made some adjustments and got the ball to the middle of the floor more to make plays, but we had a lot of live-ball turnovers that helped them get some easy buckets in transition.”
With the Lakers trailing by as many as six points in the third quarter, they looked to make their move on the backs of Kentucky commit Keion Brooks Jr. and Washington commit Isaiah Stewart, springboarding them to a 44-42 lead.
“Keion is versatile as all hell,” Holmes said. “He does a good job of scoring at all three levels with his little mid-range pullup game. He can finish well at the rim. A freak athlete. He had a big-time drive late, finishing with his left hand at the rim. He’s a good decision-maker when he keeps it simple in the middle.”
Tasked with guarding massive 6-foot-11 Kofi Cockburn, Stewart didn’t back down all game long, with both of his registered blocks coming on Cockburn shots. He also got his hands on a couple misses in the frantic finish, finally coming down with the final rebound of the game, dribbling out to half-court to celebrate with his teammates racing off the bench as the clock expired.
“That’s what Isaiah does every single night,” Holmes said on Stewart’s Herculean efforts. “That’s no easy task (guarding Cockburn), but Isaiah always wants the tough challenges. He is not just the best post player in the country. He’s the best player in the country in my mind and I think in a lot of people’s minds because he plays hard, he competes and makes his team better. He’s got a contagious personality that carries over to the rest of the team. I think that’s evident when you watch him play.”
Brooks finished with 20 points and six rebounds, while Stewart double-doubled with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Drumgoole chipped in 12 points. Anthony, the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, had 11 points and eight assists for Oak Hill.
2019 GEICO Boys High School National Tournament
No. 1 La Lumiere 58, No. 4 Oak Hill 57
Washington commit Isaiah Stewart posted 14 points and 16 rebounds.