Montverde, Fla. - The trip to the Sunshine State was meant to prepare Wheeler High School for the state playoffs back home in Georgia next week. Mission accomplished and then some. The Wildcats claimed the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament title with a big win over a tough Niagara Falls team on Saturday.
Wheeler claims tourney title
James Florence scored 33 points for the defending 5A Georgia state champs as Wheeler beat Niagara Falls 92-84 in the championship game of the tournament.
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Florence came out firing in the first half, scoring 18 of his points. The 6-foot-1 combo guard shot 11 of 24 from the floor, including five of 15 from three.
James Hickson had another strong game as he dunked home 19 points on nine of 11 shooting from the floor and also pulled down nine rebounds. UAB commitment John Tiller added 10 points in the win.
Johnny Flynn, the best guard in the tournament field, was sensational in defeat. The future Syracuse point guard scored 30 points (11-19 FG, 4-5 3 point) and dished out nine assists.
There are few players that mix quickness, athleticism, court vision and scoring quite like he can in the class of 2007. He helped Niagara Falls claw back in the game with his perimeter game. He has no problem pulling up and draining the long ball. He put on a show all week long and the faithful fan base at Montverde let him know that they appreciated his spirit for the game.
Flynn had plenty of help from Tyrell Lynch, the prep school bound big man. The 6-foot-8 forward put in 20 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat.
Free basketball once again
For the second straight game, Montverde Academy took the game into overtime and for the second straight game the host team had a difficult time fending off it's opponent. This time it was a tough, athletic LeFlore team from Alabama.
LeFlore was led by unsigned senior Johnny Mayhanne in the 45-40 overtime victory. The 6-foot-5 guard played huge for LeFlore all game long, scoring 13 first half points and had a hand either scoring or dishing off the assist in LeFlore's 25 first half points. He finished with 18 points and four made three-pointers.
Mayhanne played the tournament on a bum foot and ankle and showed off a good understanding of the game and a dandy pull up jumper. He does a nice job of passing the ball and working the offense into a position to score.
To date, Mayhanne is holding three offers from Colorado State, South Alabama and Tulane. A number of other programs are evaluating him.
Sophomore Nick Williams added 12 points and was the force inside for the Mobile, Ala., team. L.D. Williams led Montverde Academy with 10 points.
For a game that was only 45-40 at the end of the overtime period, it was full of plenty of highlights and the crowd was boisterous from start to finish.
While Solomon Alabi may be a name on Montverde's roster that is more familiar in the recruiting world, it is another junior big man that is emerging as an intriguing prospect. Joseph Katuka, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward plays with a lot of passion and has a better feel for the game than Alibi does.
Katuka, a lefty, has quick springs, runs the floor well for a player his size and fights for the ball inside the paint. He is still incredibly raw but he has shown enough to put his name on the watch list for the class of 2007.
Rewrite the record books
For the seventh place game, there was a lot of excitement in a game that would have a hard time drawing a crowd. Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) won on three free throws with a second to play against Brevard Christian (Fla.) 89-88.
Unsigned senior guard Evann Baker put together a game he'll remember for a long time. The 6-foot-3 prospect scored 24 points, including the three free throws that won the game, in the fourth quarter en route to a tournament record 51 points.
His total 96 points is also a tournament record over three games. So was his 34 of 38 from the foul line for the event. Baker's coach, Bill Howze, said Baker has interest from all over the board including Delaware, Mt. Saint Mary's and Richmond came out to see him play on Thursday.
Odds & Ends
Brion Stafford, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, had another solid outing with 10 points and nine rebounds in a 59-46 win against Mt. Dora. The Texan said Miami, UTEP, Texas-Arlington, UT-San Antonio and Denver are recruiting him the hardest.
Stafford's teammate Jimmy Flemming, a bouncy 6-foot-5 junior wing, was one of the more intriguing in the tournament field this weekend. A complete unknown on the recruiting front, he opened a number of eyes with his high-energy play and highlights above the rim.
In the house
Jacksonville University head coach Cliff Warren was the lone head coach in attendance for Saturday's action. He was also the lone head coach in attendance all tournament long. Warren was on hand to see his future big man Szymon Lukasiak.
Auburn, North Florida, South Florida and UAB assistants were also on coaches row to catch the last day of action.
Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) 89, Brevard Christian 88
Heritage Christian (Texas) 59, Mt. Dora (Fla.) 46
LeFlore (Ala.) 45, Montverde Academy (Fla.) 40 (OT)
Wheeler (Ga.) 92, Niagara Falls (N.Y.) 84 Championship game
Most Valuable Player - James Florence, Wheeler
Most Outstanding Player - Evann Baker, Archbishop Carroll
James Hickson, Wheeler
Johnny Flynn, Wheeler
Tyrell Lynch, Niagara Falls
Johnny Mayhanne, LeFlore
L.D. Williams, Montverde Academy
John Tiller, Wheeler
Chris Blake, LeFlore
Franck Ndongo, Montverde Academy