It is rare for the Montverde Academy Eagles to host a mid-week contest. It is even rarer for that contest to be an in-state opponent. Well, that is exactly what happened as the Tampa Catholic Crusaders came calling Tuesday night. Montverde dominated it first four opponents of the season but Tampa Catholic is arguably a top fifteen team in the state regardless of classification, and it was hoped that the Crusaders would provide more resistance to the top-ranked high school team in the country.
As the teams warmed up, we were surprised to not see 6’10 senior center Day’Ron Sharp out on the floor for Montverde. Told he was sick, the game became immediately more interesting as our main concern for the Eagles this season is the lack of depth of behind Sharp.
The game itself can pretty much be summed up by the first three seconds of the contest. Tampa Catholic got the opening tip ahead on the right side of the floor to senior Alijah Harrison. He had a clear, unopposed, wide-open path to the basket. On any other night against any other team, Harrison would have scored the easiest two points of his life.
That wasn’t to be the case.
Even though he was lined up on the opposite side of the mid-court jump circle, Cade Cunningham came over and blocked Harrison’s shot attempt. It wasn’t like Cunningham sprinted with great effort to get the block at the last minute, a la LeBron James vs. the Warriors a couple of years ago. No, it was almost as if Cunningham casually jogged over and took the ball out of the air as if he was toying with first-graders on the playground. Seconds later, Montverde had the first bucket of the ball game.
Montverde had a 9-0 lead at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter before the Crusaders called a time out. That didn’t help. The Eagles would lead 20-0 before TC called another time out with 3:43 to play in the period. The Crusaders finally scored on a three from Kobe Knox and found themselves buried under a 34-7 score after one quarter of play.
There was a very scary moment for both teams late in that first quarter. Cunningham drove hard to the basket and made contact with a TC player. Both players fell to the ground hard and it looked like each would stay down for a while. In real time, it looked like Cunningham’s chin was the first part of him to hit the floor while the Tampa Catholic player seemingly took a knee to the head in drawing the charge. Fortunately, both players returned to the game later in the second quarter.
Things never got better for Tampa Catholic. Deficits of 53-20 and 80-28 ended the second and third periods. There was a real possibility that the Eagles would break the century mark, but both benches were emptied early and the hundred point barrier wasn’t reached. However, the final score of 97-43 doesn’t provide much solace to Tampa Catholic.
Caleb Houston and Scottie Barnes each scored 18 points for Montverde. Moses Moody tallied 16 points while both Cade Cunningham and Langston Love reached double-figures with ten points each.
Knox led the Crusaders with 14 points while senior big man Johni Broome added 13 points.
Montverde should face a much stiffer test on Thursday night at home against DeMatha Catholic out of Hyattsville, Maryland. Both teams are ranked in the top five and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.