FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) uses two runs, and the ability of Mr. Basketball USA front-runner Ben Simmons, to defeat No. 6 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) 78-64 in showdown at Montverde’s home gym. Most of the Eagles’ tests the rest of the season will be away from home.
In order to be the nation’s top-ranked high school basketball team, tough road wins are a necessity. For FAB 50 No. 1 ranked Montverde Academy, having a home game against a tough foe such as California’s Bishop O’Dowd must have felt like a blessing.
It’s also a blessing to have a player as multi-skilled as 6-foot-9 Ben Simmons, as the LSU recruit and No. 1 ranked player in the nation led Montverde Academy to a 78-64 victory over No. 6 Bishop O’Dowd with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. His triple-double performance helped the Eagles hold off a pesky O’Dowd team that was within eight points (64-56) with five minutes to play in the game.
The key to the game was two big runs by Montverde Academy (7-0). Despite three fouls in the first half picked up by O’Dowd star center and Mr. Basketball USA candidate Ivan Rabb, the Dragons only trailed 37-30 at intermission. Montverde Academy began the third period with a 11-2 run, paced by two 3-pointers by guard Marcel Ponitka.
Guard Ty Graves, a November transfer for Montverde Academy from Page (Greensboro, N.C.), also was key to the Eagles’ victory. He scored 12 points on 4-of-5 made 3-pointers. The big 3-pointer that really hurt Bishop O’Dowd (2-1) came near the end of the third period when the Dragons had an opportunity to hold for the quarter’s final shot. They took a jumper and Graves made them pay with a triple to give Kevin Boyle’s club a 58-49 lead entering the final period.
Despite battling foul trouble, Rabb, who is still undecided about his college choice, made his presence felt. He finished with 22 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) and grabbed seven rebounds despite playing with four fouls the last nine minutes of the game. Rabb’s foul trouble didn’t help the quality of O’Dowd’s field goal attempts in the second half, as it settled for many outside shots. O’Dowd weathered the storm of its shaky first half ball-handling, but couldn’t overcome a 9-0 Montverde spurt late in the fourth quarter when the Dragons were still in range for a potential road upset.
O’Dowd guard Austin Walker chipped in 14 points for Lou Richie’s club, which opened its season with a big win over preseason No. 4 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on November 29. Gorman has since dropped out of the Grassroots Hoops FAB 50.
For O’Dowd, it will look to bounce back next week at the Iolani Tournament in Hawaii, where it could potentially meet No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). Its main goal, regardless of the outcome of its showcase games and tournaments in December, will be to win the 2015 CIF Open Division state title next March.
For Montverde Academy, the Eagles will look to retain their No. 1 ranking next week with a championship at the City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla. That tournament will feature a plethora of FAB 50-ranked teams as it usually does.
For the third consecutive season, Montverde Academy is playing shorthanded in December. The Eagles are without 6-foot-8 Florida recruit Noah Dickerson, who is out with a fractured foot. It remains to be seen if the Eagles are as good as last season, but there’s no question they are more than capable of passing the big tests on their schedule with their lineup missing key pieces. They’ve done it before and with Simmons, they are certainly capable of doing it again.