Montverde Academy of Florida captures third consecutive FAB 50 title by virtue of winning 31 of 32 games on the court against its tough schedule. By closing out its season by winning the Dick’s Nationals tournament in New York, there is little debate the Eagles are the nation’s top team as compared to last season when they edged Mater Dei of California. Montverde Academy, which does not compete for a state title, becomes the first program in the weekly poll era to capture three consecutive mythical national titles.
By Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis
In a season in which there were plenty of upsets, teams that were able to avenge earlier losses and some that just seemed to have nine lives, it was only fitting that the top two ranked clubs in the Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 met in the championship game of Dick’s Nationals Saturday at world-famous Madison Square Garden before a live ESPN audience.
Top-ranked Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) met No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) for the second consecutive season and for the second straight time, Montverde Academy knocked off the Warriors to win the Dick’s Nationals event. With its 70-61 win, Montverde Academy wrapped up a season in which it remained at the top of the rankings except for a week in January.
Today, Montverde Academy has been named mythical national champion by GrassrootsHoops.net for the third consecutive season. The Eagles become the first program to win three consecutive mythical national titles in the era of weekly boys basketball national polls, which began in Basketball Weekly for the 1975-76 season (more on that later).
By winning Dick’s Nationals for the third consecutive season (the Eagles defeated St. Benedict’s of New Jersey in 2013) and wrapping up another FAB 50 No. 1 finish, Montverde Academy becomes the second program to win three consecutive mythical national titles. Between 1958-1960, the teams at McClymonds (Oakland, Calif.) coached by Paul Harless were ranked No. 1 in the country by the National Sports News Service, the nation’s first national high school basketball rankings. Those end-of-season rankings were then compiled by Art Johlfs of Minnesota and later by Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, the latter who morphed the NSNS rankings into the FAB 50 15 years ago.
Simmons Is The Difference
Saturday’s defeat was a bitter one for Oak Hill Academy, which nearly lost by a near identical score to Montverde Academy (71-62) in last year’s Dick’s Nationals championship game. Since the inception of Dick’s Nationals at the end of the 2008-09 season, Oak Hill has captured one FAB 50 national title at the conclusion of a season and it came in the only season in which it didn’t compete in the event (2011-12). With Saturday’s loss, Oak Hill fell to 0-4 in Dick’s Nationals championship games. In three of those games (2009, 2014, 2015) a victory would have earned the Warriors a FAB 50 No. 1 finish.
It looked like Montverde Academy was in trouble when forward Ben Simmons, the leading candidate to earn Mr. Basketball USA and last year’s Dick’s Nationals MVP, left the game near the end of the first quarter after he was accidently poked in the eye by Oak Hill point guard Terrence Phillips. Oak Hill led 33-26 at halftime and by as much as nine points in the first half.
Montverde Academy got back in the game behind the clutch shooting of senior guard Fard Muhammad in the third quarter and Simmons led the way during the stretch run in the final period. With 5:55 remaining in the third period, a 3-pointer by Muhammad gave the Eagles a 35-34 lead. Oak Hill Academy led 49-45 entering the final period and that’s when Simmons (whose eye began to clear up as the game wore on which allowed him to become more assertive) took over. He scored 13 of his 20 points in the final period to helped Montverde overcome the four-point deficit and lead his team to its historic third straight national championship.
This year’s Montverde team was not as talented as last year’s and didn’t have no where near the firepower the 2012-13 team did, but Simmons was the X-factor. His clutch plays at the end helped Montverde Academy clinch a wild 57-53 overtime win over Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) in the semifinals (more on that later). Without his rebounding, distributing and court presence, it’s pretty safe to say the Eagles would have been in major trouble against Oak Hill Academy on Saturday. Simmons finished the championship game with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He was named tournament MVP for the second consecutive year, averaging 19.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg in three games.
This year’s Montverde Academy team was defined by its solid perimeter defense and its ability to find various contributors during various portions of the season. For instance, Muhammad entered Dick’s Nationals with a season average of 2.8 ppg, but his 20 points, including 5-of-7 3-pointers, and five rebounds were instrumental against Oak Hill Academy.
Phillips, bound for Missouri, led Oak Hill Academy with 15 points, five assists and five steals. McDonald’s All-American and BallIsLife All-American Game participant Dwayne Bacon tallied 14 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field.
Dick’s Nationals Rankings Factors
No team dropped out of the final rankings from the previous week, but the seven game results at Dick’s Nationals did cause some shuffling.
The first game result to analyze was the 73-70 quarterfinal loss by previous No. 5 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) to Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.), which fell in the semifinals to Oak Hill Academy 61-51. The Wildcats dropped five spots, one spot behind the Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) team which defeated Huntington Prep. That also meant previous No. 6 Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ga.) had to drop.
The common-opponent factor then came then into play, as Jonesboro’s only loss was a 92-72 loss to No. 1 Montverde Academy. Wheeler handed Montverde Academy its only loss of the season in the championship of the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla., so that meant Wheeler should remain in front of Jonesboro. Wheeler’s loss to unranked West Linn (West Linn, Ore.) also became a factor after it lost in the quarterfinals. Had it made it to the championship game, the importance of the loss to West Linn would have been diminshed.
Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) fell one spot after it suffered its first defeat of the season in the 63-50 quarterfinal setback to Findlay Prep. It definitely helped Ely that Findlay Prep took Montverde Academy into overtime. Wing’s Academy (Bronx, N.Y.) also fell just one spot following its 72-63 quarterfinal loss to Oak Hill Academy. Winning the New York Federation title was huge to Wings’ resume and we just couldn’t drop it any further.
FINAL 2014-15 Grassroots Hoops FAB 50
Boys Basketball National Team Rankings
(Final poll of the 2014-15 regular season; Through games played on Saturday, April 4; Previous ranking in listed in second column under “Prev.”; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included)
|1||1||Montverde Academy||(Montverde, Fla.)||31-1|
|2||2||Oak Hill Academy||(Mouth of Wilson, Va.)||46-2*|
|3||3||Cape Henry Collegiate||(Virginia Beach, Va.)||31-2|
|4||4||Bishop O'Dowd||(Oakland, Calif.)||28-4|
|5||13||Findlay Prep||(Henderson, Nev.)||29-3|
|6||8||Greensboro Day||(Greensboro, N.C.)||33-3|
|7||9||Wesleyan Christian Academy||(High Point, N.C.)||28-5|
|8||7||Ely||(Pompano Beach, Fla.)||28-1|
|9||10||Roman Catholic||(Philadelphia, Pa.)||29-2|
|14||14||Corona del Sol||(Tempe, Ariz.)||32-1|
|15||15||Cardinal Gibbons||(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)||32-1|
|16||16||Mater Dei||(Santa Ana, Calif.)||29-5|
|19||19||Plano West||(Plano, Texas)||33-2|
|21||20||Wing's Academy||(Bronx, N.Y.)||30-3|
|22||21||Bishop Montgomery||(Torrance, Calif.)||31-2|
|23||23||DeMatha Catholic||(Hyattsville, Md.)||33-4|
|24||24||Roselle Catholic||(Roselle, N.J.)||28-4|
|25||25||Western International||(Detroit, Mich.)||26-0|
|26||26||Sacred Heart||(Waterbury, Conn.)||28-0|
|27||33||Wayne||(Huber Heights, Ohio)||26-4|
|28||27||Fairfax||(Los Angeles, Calif.)||32-3|
|29||32||St. Anthony||(Jersey City, N.J.)||28-2|
|31||29||Sierra Canyon||(Chatsworth, Calif.)||26-4|
|33||30||Archbishop Carroll||(Wayne, Pa.)||23-7|
|34||34||La Lumiere||(LaPorte, Ind.)||24-3|
|35||35||Velma Jackson||(Camden, Miss.)||33-2|
|36||36||Christ the King||(Middle Village, N.Y.)||26-5|
|39||39||Bishop Gorman||(Las Vegas, Nev.)||27-6|
|40||40||Apple Valley||(Apple Valley, Minn.)||30-2|
|41||41||Champlin Park||(Champlin, Minn.)||31-1|
|44||49||Normal Community||(Normal, Ill.)||33-2|
|45||44||Blue Springs||(Blue Springs, Mo.)||29-2|
|47||47||Homestead||(Fort Wayne, Ind.)||28-2|
|49||48||Creighton Prep||(Omaha, Neb.)||27-2|
Dropped Out: None.
Bubble Teams: No bubble listed. Look for our final Region-by-Region Top 20 Rankings later this week.
Note: The Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 for the 1999-2000 season. We just completed our 16th consecutive season compiling boys basketball national rankings in a FAB 50 format. Senior consultant Doug Huff began the weekly National Prep Poll, precursor to the FAB 50, for the 1987-1988 season.