It doesn’t get any better than #1 vs #2. Except when they have developed a rivalry that feels like Duke-North Carolina on the elite high school level.
After a couple of empty possessions for each team, Malik Reneau of Montverde got the Eagles on the board with a putback. Jaylen Bradley responded with a mid-range jumper for IMG to tie it. Dariq Whitehead connected on a three for Montverde but a mid-range jumper from Jarace Walker and a three from Bradley gave IMG a 7-5 lead with 4:36 left in the first period. Reneau grabbed the lead back for Montverde with a three point play. A steal and score by Walker of IMG and a free throw from Whitehead tied the score at 9-9. The teams then traded buckets but a three from Bradley gave the lead to IMG. Montverde grabbed the lead back with a driving score from Reneau and a putback from Vincent Iwuchukwu but a driving scored by Keyonte George game IMG a 16-15 lead after one quarter of play.
Montverde jumped back on top with a score inside by Iwuchukwu but a free throw from Walker of IMG tied it up. Two free throws from Kwame Evans gave the lead back to Montverde but then IMG put together a run. Walker converted a three point play, Jett Howard hit a three and Bradley hit a three. All of a sudden it was 26-19 in favor of the Ascenders of IMG. Whitehead finally stopped the bleeding for the Eagles, connecting on a three. Bradley hit one of two from the line for IMG but Whitehead scored on a baseline drive to make the score 27-24 with just under three minutes to play. Howard quieted the crowd with a three to push the margin to six, but that was the last basket for IMG in the period. Montverde erupted on 10-0 run, eight those from Whitehead, and the Eagles took a 34-30 lead into the break.
Walker threw down a lob for IMG to open the third quarter scoring but a three off the dribble from Whitehead increased the Eagle lead to five a 37-32. Walker and Whitehead traded threes on the next possession for each team. The teams would continue to trade baskets for much of the rest of the third quarter. After a driving score from Whitehead of Montverde and one of two free throws from Jacoi Hutchinson of IMG, the Eagles grabbed their largest lead of six after two free throws from Evans. With 1:21 left in the quarter, the score was 46-40 in favor of Montverde. Hutchinson hit two free throws for IMG but Reneau cancelled those out on a putback with twenty seconds left to play in the quarter. It looked like Montverde would take a six point lead into the fourth quarter but George of IMG drained a three just before the horn and Montverde’s lead was only three, 48-45.
Jalen Hood-Schifino hit one of two free throws for the Eagles to open up the final period of play. IMG tied the game at 49-49 after an offensive rebound dunk by Walker and a driving score from Daily. Montverde grabbed the lead back with a pair of free throws each from Hood-Schifino and Whitehead. IMG got to within in, 53-52 after a free throw and offensive rebound basket from Eric Dailey. Whitehead responded with a pair of free throws for Montverde. A three point play from Walker with four minutes left in the quarter tied the score at 55-55. Iwuchukwu hit one of two free throws for the Eagles but IMG took the lead with a mid-range jumper from George. That didn’t last long as Iwuchukwu put back a miss for the Eagles. Two free throws from Dailey and a driving score from George gave IMG a 61-58 lead with two minutes to play. It didn’t take long for Whitehead to hit a three for Montverde and tie the game at 61-61. Walker connected on two free throws to give the lead back to IMG. Montverde missed a three on their end but was given new life after an IMG turnover with forty-four seconds left. Hood-Schifino responded in a big way, scoring inside, drawing a foul, and connecting on the “and one” free throw to give Montverde a 64-63 lead. After an IMG timeout, George found himself with the ball and drove to the hoop with under eight seconds to play. His contested shot in the lane found its target with five seconds left, giving IMG a one-point lead. Montverde actually got a good look at a three from just across mid-court but it fell away and the Ascenders of IMG took home a thrilling one-point victory by the score of 64-63.
IMG was led by Walker with 20 points. George added 14 and Howard added 11 points.
For Montverde, Whitehead led all scorers with 31 points while Reneau added 11 points.