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December 29, 2007

Houston vs. the Nation: Upset city

HOUSTON - In the seven years of the Academy National Invitational tournament and the Houston vs. The Nation tournament, the capacity crowds at the Aldine Campbell Center have been treated to elite level basketball and many a future NBA player putting together dominant performances. On Friday, the crowd of more than 6,000 was treated to a pair of major upsets as Houston area teams Cy Springs and Jack Yates took down nationally rated Montverde Academy and Oak Hill Academy.

Nation's No. 2 goes down

The Cy Springs Panthers out of the West Houston area played the part of upset specialist on Friday at the Aldine Campbell Center knocking off national power Montverde Academy 65-59, who came into the game with a 40-plus game winning streak after an undefeated 2006-07 season.

Cy Springs was led by the hot shooting duo of 2009 small forward Erik Williams (Marquette commit) and 2008 shooting guard Phillip McDonald (New Mexico). The contest was a tale of two halves with each player dominating for a 16-minute stretch.

The first half belonged to the 6-foot-6, long-armed Williams, who has been up and down for parts of the season. Friday was clearly up as the future Marquette wing scored 14 first-half points and recorded four steals as Cy Springs led 30-29 after 16 minutes. The junior hit a pair of three-pointers from the left wing, scored on an offensive rebound and flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor going left and finishing with a nice touch over lengthy Montverde Academy defenders.

Montverde Academy stayed in the game in large part due to dominance on the offensive glass and the all-around play by Marcus Capers. The 6-foot-5, left handed wing showed why he may be the most under-appreciated prospect in the 2008 class with array of quick leaping moves for scores and eye catching defensive plays in transition. Capers proved to be an elite level leaper with a cat quick first and second jump.

Capers teammate, future Texas A&M Aggie point guard Dashan Harris, struggled in the opening half going 0-4 from the floor and committing four turnovers that kept the Eagles from putting together a scoring run to take control of the game.

In the second half, future New Mexico shooting guard McDonald played the role of the knock out artist scoring 14 of his 26 points in the third quarter. McDonald got the crowd on its feet with a high rising blocked shot from the weak side followed by back-to-back three-pointers starting a run that ended with the Panthers outscoring Montverde Academy 23-14 in third quarter and taking a 53-43 lead into the final quarter.

Montverde Academy didn't let the 40-plus game winning streak go down without a fight in the final quarter.

Capers continued with his terrific all-around effort electrifying the crowd with a big time two handed dunk in traffic.

Point guard Harris finally showed his play making skills in the closing minutes of the game with three darting, straight line drives that ended with a basket and a pair of nifty passes in traffic for scores, but it wasn't enough as the No. 2 team in the country fell 65-59.

McDonald led all scores with 26 points. The 6-5 guard added four rebounds, three blocked shots and connected on six of 13 three-pointers. Teammate Erik Williams tallied 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

Capers led the way for Montverde Academy with 16 points, eight rebounds and a steal. Steve Tchiengang tossed in 13 points, while Dashan Harris shot just two of 13 with seven turnovers (four assists).

Yates, Anthony Jones knock off Oak Hill

If the upset of Montverde Academy wasn't enough on Friday, the night-cap certainly sent the near capacity crowd of Houston area basketball fans home with a smile on their face as Jack Yates pulled a surprising upset over Oak Hill 82-80 after trailing by nine to start the second half.

While the 2007 Oak Hill team doesn't feature a squad of ten high-major prospects with a future NBA player or two sprinkled in on the roster as in years past, the Warriors still possess their fair share of talented players in the jaw-dropping Brandon Jennings and a pair of juniors in Glenn Bryant and Keith Gallon.

The first half Friday night looked like more of the same that the Houston area fans have come to expect from Oak Hill, a convincing victory.

The Yates Lions feature a full court pressure, trapping style designed to wear on the legs and minds of the opponent. Oak Hill came out prepared and took full advantage in the early going. With Yates trapping the initial inbounds pass, Oak Hill wisely looked to get future Arizona guard Jennings the ball on the second pass up the floor and let the speed and quickness take over. Jennings went to work quickly scoring on a layup and run out, two handed dunk leading to an eight point opening quarter for the highly touted point guard.

Yates played to 20-20 tie in the first quarter behind the quick driving scores of the guards.

The second quarter featured the big men more as Oak Hill's Gallon (2009) and Yates Anthony Jones (Baylor) went to work. Matched-up for the majority of the game, Gallon used his 6-9, 290-pound frame to wipe out the 6-9, 180-pound future Baylor Bear around the basket. Gallon impressed the crowd with three powerful second quarter dunks, while Jones flashed his vast potential with the ability to step away from the basket and knock down a 20-footer as well as use his 7-foot-2 wing span to score inside of 12 feet.

Jennings was the game's high scorer at the half with 17 points, while Jones led Yates with 14 points and four rebounds.

The second half was a battle of weary legs and the ability to make plays when physically and mentally tired. Advantage Yates as Oak Hill played only seven players in the fast paced game, while Yates played ten.

Jones again went to work against Gallon, who didn't have the ability to defend the quicker Jones laterally. Jones scored in the mid-range and hit another three-pointer in the second half to finish with 22 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.

The aggressive play of the Yates guards combined with Jones kept Gallon in foul trouble before eventually fouling out in the closing minute. Gallon finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Jennings kept Oak Hill in the game with a quick scoring burst in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. The 6-0 guard hit a pair of three's from the right wing and threw down a third dunk on the night in transition. Jennings finished with a game-high 31 points and three steals.

Defensively, Jennings flashed a bad habit of jumping instead of sliding laterally and gave up too many straight line drives. When Jennings learns to stay in front of the ball, he has the ability to create deflections and steals due to his quick reactions.

St. Patrick's lives up to billing

The St. Patrick's Celtics are considered by some to be the No. 1 team in the country and on Friday, they certainly played the part beating Houston Madison 79-67 in a game featuring a pair of the top prospects in the 2009 class in St. Patrick's guard Dexter Strickland and Madison point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin.

Strickland lived up to his lofty status and was the best player on the court at the Aldine Campbell Center Friday. Strickland thrived in transition making tough driving scores look simple and showed the great pace with which he plays the game in the half court. The 6-3 junior made quick cuts without wasted motion working off of down screens in the half court and converted a pair of mid-range jumpers.

As impressive as his ability to score the ball with ease was his ability to see the floor off the bounce setting up teammates for a game high five assists as well as leaping well above the rim to snatch a game high seven rebounds.

Mason-Griffin came into the game as the hometown favorite after averaging more than 30 points as a sophomore in the Texas high school playoffs. The 5-9 right handed point guard in a running back's body scored a game high 28 points connecting on six of 11 contested three-pointers. The majority of his long range jumpers were released outside of 21-feet with a hand or hands in his face.

When putting the ball on the floor with quick, darting lateral moves, Mason-Griffin often found open teammates, but his teammates failed to connect. The LSU commit also took the task of defending Strickland man on the defensive end and did a good job of fighting through screens and making Strickland v-cut hard to get free on the catch.

The two juniors weren't the only players to put together impressive performances. Kansas bound power forward Quintrell Thomas worked a six inch height advantage in the post in the second half on his way to a 22 point, six rebound night. Thomas, who stands 6-8, used his combination of quick leaping ability and his broad, squared shoulders to dominate in the paint.

Thomas threw down a handful of dunks that drew praise from the patrons.

Coaches turn out for Friday's action

College coaches from the likes of Florida, North Carolina, USC, Marquette, Texas, Kansas, Baylor, Kentucky, and Houston among others were seated on press row.

Friday's results

St. Thomas High School (81) vs. Westfield High School(78)
HCYA (67) vs. St. Pius X High School (55)
Bellaire High School (51) vs. Hastings High School(66)
Seven Lakes High School (35) vs. Kingwood High School(47)
Montverde Academy (59) vs. Cy Springs High School (65)
Albany Academy (39) vs. Klein Collins High School (60)
De La Salle High School (53) vs. Wheatley High School(64)
St. Patrick High School (70) vs. Madison High School(67)
Oak Hill Academy (80) vs. Yates High School (82)


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