Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
The Findlay Prep basketball team is in what coach Mike Peck describes as “BCS mode” this month.
After a 33-day layoff, the Pilots will be back in action March 31 at the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, being selected Monday for the prestigious eight-team tournament at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md. The ESPN family of networks televises the three-day event.
The Henderson-based program, which has won the last two ESPN Rise titles and is widely considered one of high school basketball’s elite organizations, was seeded No. 3 and opens against Dwyer High of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Dwyer is Florida’s 5A state champ.
With no games since late February, Peck has managed the practice schedule to resemble that of a college football team getting ready for a Bowl Championship Series game. Teams have more than a month off from the end of the regular season to the early-January bowl game.
“We gave them 10 days off completely,” Peck said. “Then we came back with practice and conditioning, and every so many days with scrimmages at game pace.”
A victory against Dwyer would give Findlay (28-3) a chance to avenge the worst defeat in the program’s five-year history. The Pilots were beaten Feb. 12 by 26 points by Montrose Christian of Maryland, which is ranked No. 3 by ESPN and the event’s No. 1 seed.
“It was just a nightmare,” Peck said of the loss. “We didn’t hit any of our shots. We couldn’t defend. We didn’t play any aspect of the game well. It was humbling.”
Findlay has captured the last two titles. In 2008-09, when the Pilots were a perfect 33-0, they finished ranked No. 1 in virtually every poll. Last year, they had a 45-game winning streak snapped in losing twice but still won the ESPN event and were ranked near the top of every poll. This season, they opened ranked No. 1 in the ESPN Fab 50.
Even though Findlay only has three holdovers — senior guard Nick Johnson (an Arizona commit), junior post player Winston Shepard and sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss (UNLV) — from last year’s team, Peck is confident his players are ready. They’ve traveled more than 30,000 miles this year playing the best the nation has to offer.
“Mentally and physically they should be ready,” Peck said. “If they aren’t (at this stage of the season), we’re in trouble.”
In addition to Johnson and Shepard, the Pilots are led by Texas commit Myck Kabongo, a consensus top-10 prospect for the class of 2011 and a McDonald’s All-American.