Friday, April 3, 2009 | 2:20 p.m.
NORTH BETHESDA, Md. – It was sluggish and sloppy, but Findlay College Prep eased through its first game of the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational on Friday.
The Pilots, the top-ranked team by USA Today, beat Beckley (W.V.) Mountain State Academy, 76-55, in the Henley Center at Georgetown Prep.
The outcome was academic as Findlay, which improved to 31-0, took a 20-point edge into the fourth quarter.
Maybe not having played in five weeks had a lot to do with the sloppy play, but that’s about the average time off for each of the eight teams in the tournament.
Findlay holds a 56-36 lead over Mountain State Academy after three quarters Friday in the Hanley Center at Georgetown Prep.
Cory Joseph opened the second half with a 3-pointer from the right side to give the Pilots a 42-24 edge, but then they got sloppy.
Carlos Lopez missed two free throws and threw it away on a backdoor pass to D.J. Richardson that bounced out of bounds, and Avery Bradley got whistled for a charge.
Mountain State got to within 12, at 46-34, when a timeout was called. Out of that pause, Findlay raced out to a 52-34 lead.
Lopez put in a rebound off Joseph’s errant 3-pointer, Joseph took it in strong from the right wing and Lopez slipped in a layup off a transition feed from Richardson.
Joseph zipped down for an easy fast-break layup with 12 ticks remaining in the quarter to give Findlay its 20-point edge.
Mountain State Academy cut a 15-point deficit to single digits about halfway through the second half when Findlay guard Avery Bradley drilled a 3-point shot from the top of the key.
That gave the Pilots a double-digit advantage for the rest of the first half as they smothered hot-shot Mountain State guard Noah Cottrill.
When Cottrill tried one jumper from the right side, Carlos Lopez and D.J. Richardson collapsed on him. The ball fell to the side, Lopez picked it up and the Pilots raced to the other side.
Godwin Okonji ended up hitting a pair of free throws on that possesson to boost Findlay’s advantage to 36-21.
With 31 seconds left in the second quarter, Richardson hit a free throw but missed the second. Tristan Thompson, however, swopped down with the rebound, then vaulted back up for the slam and the final points of the half.
Bradley has 11 points at intermission, Richardson has 10, and Lopez and Thompson have 6 apiece.
Cottrill, who scored Mountain State’s first points of the game with a 3-pointer and then a free throw when he was fouled by Bradley, leads everyone with 12.
Findlay and Mountain State Academy started sluggishly Friday in a quarterfinal of the ESPN Invitational, with the first points coming almost two minutes after tip-off.
That was Pilots guard D.J. Richardson’s 3-pointer from the right side with 6:19 left in the opening quarter.
It was tight until about three minutes remained, when Findlay guard Avery Bradley took Tristan Thompson’s feed in for a dunk for a 16-9 lead.
That forced Mountain State coach Rob Fulford to call a timeout with 2:44 left, and then Findlay poured it on for a 24-11 advantage after a quarter.
Bradley had eight points, including a coast-to-coast dunk with 50 seconds left to wow the crowd and give the Pilots a 22-11 lead.
Richardson had seven points and Carlos Lopez had five.
Findlay has a 31-19 lead halfway through the second quarter.
We come to you live this afternoon from the sweltering hot box known as the Hanley Center on the campus of Georgetown Prep.
The sprawling, stately campus started in 1789 and is the site for the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, where Findlay College Prep hopes to bag its first national championship.
A year ago, the Pilots were 32-1 when they lost to Hargrave Military Academy by two points in the finale of the National Prep Championship at Fordham in the Bronx, N.Y.
Once again, the Pilots finished a regular season at 30-0. This time, they’re in the regular high school class after coach Mike Peck quit taking “fifth-year,” or postgraduate, players after last season.
Tip-off for second-seeded Findlay’s first game of the ESPN Invitational is 3 p.m., Vegas time, and we’ll keep you posted on how it’s progressing against seventh-seeded Beckley (W.V.) Mountain State Academy (23-6) in this live blog.
Updates will come after every 8-minute quarter.
Pilots coach Mike Peck and assistant coach Todd Simon have entered the building. If you’re watching at home on ESPNU, they’re just behind a pillar behind the left baseline.
(At the left end of the press table in front of the court, in the white sweater … yeah, that’s me.)
In the first game of the day, Oak Hill Academy improved to 39-0 with an 83-64 victory over Pinewood Prep. A 27-8 third quarter sealed it for the top-seeded Warriors.
With only eight points and four rebounds, Keith “Tiny” Gallon of Oak Hill didn’t fare too well. Like Findlay guard Avery Bradley, Gallon played in Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Miami.
After today’s performance, Gallon complained about the plane ride back to Carolina, a two-hour bus ride to Virginia, the five-hour bus ride from Mouth of Wilson, Va., here to Georgetown Prep.
He even yapped about having to get up this morning, take shower and eat breakfast.
Kids have it rough these days.
Right now, Baltimore St. Frances (31-3) is giving Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict’s (23-2) a game. It’s 31-31 early in the third quarter.
In the last seconds of the first half, Dante Holmes hit a jumper on the left side to give St. Frances a 29-24 edge at intermission. After it fell through the net, Holmes turned to run up the court, flexed and yelled “ … yeah!”
Hopefully, ESPN’s microphones didn’t catch the exclamation.
Thankfully, St. Benedict’s, ahead 39-31, is starting to pull away from St. Frances. St. Benedict’s coach Danny Hurley was laying it on the officials so hard it looked like his head might explode.
Findlay forward Tristan Thompson, as you all know, transferred to the Pilots after getting dismissed by Hurley at St. Benedict’s in February. In the St. Benedict’s team photo, Thompson is one of the few players smiling.
Did I say it’s sweltering in this gym? Reminds me of the Maui Invitational from about 15 years ago, minus the palm trees and ocean.
Anyway, hopefully I can do half as good a job as my usual sidekick, Ryan Greene, does on UNLV basketball and football games.