The opening game of the 2022 Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament featured a pair of nationally ranked teams as Fab 50 #20 Long Island Lutheran escaped the cold to take on #21 Dr. Phillips out of Orlando. Both teams were in the Arby’s Tournament in Tennessee post-Christmas and were seeded in such a way that they would meet in the title game but DP was upset in the first round while Lutheran went on to win the title.
After only a few possessions into the game, one could tell these teams were evenly matched and played a similar style of ball. It was no surprise that the score was tied 6-6 after the first four minutes. Neither DP or LuHi could get more than a one possession lead at any time in the quarter. A Lutheran basket just before the buzzer gave the Crusaders a 13-11 lead.
Lutheran maintained that lead thru much of the second period but the lead was never more than three points. The Crusaders led 21-18 with four minutes left in the half. DP got a bit of a boost when they got into the bonus at that time. The Panthers finished the quarter with a 6-0 run and took a 29-28 lead into the break.
DP continued to play well to open the third quarter, going on a 7-2 run to open up some room and forcing a Crusaders timeout. That stopped the Panthers’ momentum and LuHi was quick to claw back into the game. DP’s six point lead just a few minutes ago was now down to just two, 41-39, midway thru the period. A short time later, DP faced a scary moment as McDonald’s All-American Ernest Udeh took an inadvertent shot to the chops, going down on the court and cutting the inside of his mouth. The Panthers were up 45-41 at that point and if LuHi was going to make a run, this would be the perfect time to do it. However, DP not only survived, but fueled by a late 5-0 run by Mississippi State signee Riley Kugel, the Panthers extended their lead to six, 50-44, going into the final period.
The Crusaders drained a three to open the fourth quarter to cut their deficit in half. However, the Panthers responded and with four minutes left in the contest were up eight at 55-47. LuHi extended its defense at that point and the Panthers got a little reckless with the basketball. With one minute to play, DP led by six, 60-54, and was in the bonus. They extended the margin to eight but with twenty seconds remaining, Lutheran hit a three to cut it to five, 62-57. A few seconds later DP made a pair of free throws. The Crusaders missed a three with under ten seconds to play and immediately fouled the Panthers. DP hit both free throws to extend their lead to nine, 66-57. LuHi hit a three just before the buzzer but it was of little consequence. The Panthers of Dr. Phillips won by the score of 66-60.
Kugel led the way for DP with 24 points. Udeh added 17 points while future Florida Gator Denzel Aberdeen tallied 12 points. The Panthers will play Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian in the semi-finals Friday night.
Jayden Reid of LuHi led the Crusaders with 22 points. Jayden Pierre, James Johns, and Amdy Ndiaye each scored 10 points.
BONUS COVERAGE: Lakeland Victory Christian at Orlando The First Academy
Victory Christian won fairly convincingly by the score of 76-65. For us, the main attraction was seeing two of the better underclassmen in the central part of the state in 6’1 sophomore Lorenzo Cason of Victory Christian and 6’0 junior Jaden Huygens of TFA.
Cason was impressive right out of the gate. He scored 27 points in the first half on his way to 41 for the contest. He scores from every level, plays with great intensity, and has a high basketball IQ. Cason shot the ball well from distance, going 5-6 from behind the arc. He’s a crafty ball-handler and creative finisher at the basket. Also impressive is Cason’s anticipation instincts on the defensive end of the floor. We have him for seven steals on the night.
Huygens put forth a strong effort as well. Despite playing on a bum ankle, he still led the team with 26 points. He was 5-12 from deep and though he couldn’t really explode to the basket, he was able to use his strong frame to ward off defenders and score in traffic. Huygens rebounded the ball well for his size and made good decisions with the basketball.
Both Cason and Huygens are guys to watch this coming spring and summer.