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January 18, 2018

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Findlay Prep

LIVE BLOG: The Pilots advance to the ESPN Inv’l finale

NORTH BETHESDA, Md. – Once again, we bring you live coverage of the inaugural ESPN RISE National High School Invitational from the Hanley Center at Georgetown Prep.

The first semifinal, at 8 a.m. in Las Vegas, pits Oak Hill Academy (39-0) against Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict’s (24-2).

In the second semifinal, Findlay College Prep (31-0) plays Montrose Christian (21-2), from nearby Rockville. Both games are on ESPN2, and Sunday’s noon finale will be televised on ESPN.

Findlay fans might want to keep an eye on those mid-quarter media timeouts, a rarity for high school ball. But, with ESPN sponsoring the tournament and airing the games ...

Midway through each 8-minute quarter, at the first dead ball, there is a 2-minute, 15-second timeout. This is good for television but not so good for a well-conditioned team like the Pilots.

Findlay assistant coach Todd Simon told Pilots head coach Mike Peck on Friday that he didn't call even three timeouts in February. Unfortunately, that breather is gold for opponents. Usually, Findlay foes get winded in the third quarter. The dam breaks, and the Pilots get dunk after dunk.

Those timeouts might be the best thing for teams playing Findlay. In addition, there's no shot clock here. If Findlay wins today, and the score is low and the margin is tight, there are a couple of reasons.

Onto the action:

11:35 a.m.

Findlay 60, Montrose Christian 43, Final

The dream West vs. East matchup is set after Findlay dominated Montrose.

Findlay vs. Oak Hill. No. 1 in USA Today (the Pilots) vs. No. 2 (the Warriors). No. 1 in the ESPN rankings (the Warriors) vs. No. 2 (the Pilots).

Which is the most accurate poll? Which is the best prep team in the land? It will be decided on the court Sunday at noon (Las Vegas time) on ESPN.

Avery Bradley led everyone with 27 points in the physical game in which Montrose was horrendous shooting from the field (12 percent in the first half) and at the line (41 percent through three quarters.)

However, Montrose rallied to make it look respectful with 15 points in the final four minutes.

11:14 a.m.

Findlay 44, Montrose Christian 23

At the end of three quarters, not much has changed in this semifinal. Montrose can’t shoot straight, and the Pilots are playing even with Montrose on the boards.

Tristan Thompson’s hard follow-up jam of Avery Bradley’s missed shot gave Findlay a 42-23 lead, and guard D.J. Richardson hit a lunger with 64 seconds left for the quarter’s final points.

The Pilots have had the game secured since they took the lead three minutes into it.

10:44 a.m.

Findlay 27, Montrose Christian 13

The Pilots are being paced by Avery Bradley’s 20 points and strong team defense, despite Montrose’s dominance on the boards.

Foul trouble (three each) with Carlos Lopez and Godwin Okonji will bear watching, as will Bradley’s left hip.

On the last play of the first half, Bradley zipped in from the left side for a backdoor layup but missed and landed hard on his left side. Okonji scooped up the miss and put it in with four ticks left for the 14-point margin.

10:23 a.m.

Findlay 15, Montrose Christian 7

On the strength of Avery Bradley’s 13 points, the Pilots have the lead after a quarter. His 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Findlay a 13-7 edge with 1 1/2 mintes left.

However, his hard drive on center Mouphtaou Yarou with 22 seconds was the signature move of the game so far. Bradley hit a free throw from the foul, and Yarou was whistled for the foul.

As Findlay junior forward Tristan Thompson said Friday, Montrose is trying to operate everything through Yarou. With 2 minutes left in the quarter, Peck switched to a 3-2 zone defense.

Peck has been devising the scheme all week for Yarou and Montrose.

Findlay scored the first five points of the second quarter, on two Bradley free throws and a Cory Joseph 3-pointer to take a 20-7 lead.

9:36 a.m.

Oak Hill 74, St. Benedict's 66

Will it be a dream matchup in Sunday's final, Oak Hill, the top seed here and No. 2 by USA Today, vs. Findlay Prep, second-seeded here but No. 1 in the USA Today national Super 25 rankings?

Stay tuned. Cliff Findlay, the larger-than-life former UNLV center and automobile magnate in whose parents' names he started the Pilots' program three years ago, just walked into the gym wearing shorts, no socks and casual shoes. It's a bit breezy and cool outside, but Findlay obviously is feeling fine.

9:09 a.m.

St. Benedict's got close to Oak Hill, but then power forward Keith "Tiny" Gallon hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Byron Allen sliced in for a layup, and the Warriors took a 52-42 lead at the end of three quarters.

Peck and Simon are watching from just beyond a baseline.

8:35 a.m.

Gallon’s put-back gives Oak Hill, which is employing a 2-3 zone on defense, a 32-27 edge with 51 seconds left in the first half.

With 11 ticks left, Findlay players walk into the arena at one baseline, walk all the way around the court to the other baseline and sit in front-row seats in a corner.

St. Benedict’s misses a long shot in the final seconds.

8:11 a.m.

Gallon, who apparently fluctuates between 290 and 320 pounds, just turned it over on an inbounds pass after St. Benedict’s scored.

His right foot touched the line before he got rid of yet another three-quarter-length pass. That seems to be a big part of Gallon’s arsenal. And he just collected a foul.

Not a good start for the big man. The Warriors just turned it over again, Gallon collected his second foul in 3 1/2 minutes and was given a seat on the bench and St. Benedcit’s takes an 11-4 lead.

Might Findlay forward Tristan Thompson be reunited with his old team, St. Benedict’s, in the championship game?

By the end of the first quarter, Gallon is back in the game and so are the Warriors, who trail 15-14.

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