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Montrose Christian wins ESPN RISE NHSI Championship

After Oak Hill (VA) and Montrose Christian (MD) went into double-overtime in their first match-up earlier this season, it was no surprise that another double-overtime game was needed to decide the winner of the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational (NHSI) as Montrose Christian beat Oak Hill, 71-64.

The game started off slowly for these two high-scoring teams as neither squad made a field goal in the first 4:41 to start the game. For most of the first quarter, there was a fast pace with teams committing turnovers however they were unable to score on the other end in transition. Both teams were consistently getting into the lane but were not able to score in traffic which caused them to get their shots blocked or throw up wild attempts that weren’t close. Getting the ball in the hoop was even a difficulty for Oak Hill guard and McDonald’s All-American Quinn Cook (Duke) and Montrose Christian forward Justin Anderson as they combined for just one field goal made in the first half. The two teams went onto score just 14 total points to end the quarter and headed into the second quarter with Oak Hill leading, 8-6.

The second quarter was a different story for both teams as they combined for 36 points and were able to convert on three-point attempts and second-chance lay-ups around the basket. Montrose Christian forward Michael Carrera epitomized the style of the game as more than half of his 10 points came off of second-chance opportunities as he added six rebounds heading into the half. Overall, Montrose Christian dominated the glass by accumulating a +15 rebounding advantage with Carrera, Anderson, and junior forward Kevin Larsen crashing the boards. However, they entered halftime with a two-point deficit, down 24-22, as they committed as many turnovers as they made field goals (eight) and were unable to contain Cook as he scored nine of his 11 points in the second quarter and had no turnovers.

The third quarter was the highest scoring quarter for each team as Montrose Christian guard Tyrone Johnson (Villanova) started hitting some shots along with dishing out assists and Carrera had his highest scoring quarter with seven points. Montrose Christian also continued their dominance on the glass which eliminated second-chance points for Oak Hill and limited them to one shot per possession. Oak Hill often wasted their one shot by taking contested three-pointers early in the shot-clock without slashing into the lane or even making passes. However, Oak Hill was able to get some easy transition points which gave them a 42-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Each team went back to their first quarter style of play as they combined for just 21 points and shot poorly from the field. It was close throughout the quarter and came down to the final minute of regulation as Montrose Christian had the ball with 40.1 seconds left with a two-point deficit facing them. However, a turnover by Montrose Christian led to Cook throwing a ½ court pass to Oak Hill forward Damien Wilson who slammed home the easy two, giving them a 52-48 lead. Momentum switch hands once again as Johnson hit two clutch free throws for Montrose Christian with 31.2 seconds left and then again when he hit a mid-range jumper with 17 seconds left to tie up the game, 52-52.  Oak Hill then held the ball for one last shot and had Cook, their star point guard, take one last shot. With four seconds left, he launched a long, contested three-point attempt which hit the iron and sent the game into overtime.

Heading into the first overtime period, Montrose Christian had all of the momentum after coming back in the final minute to tie up the game but Oak Hill refused to let their disappointing finish in the fourth quarter influence how they played in overtime. Each team continued to play to their strengths as Montrose Christian consistently out-rebounded Oak Hill despite their size disadvantage and Cook took over the Oak Hill offense by hitting numerous floaters and a three-pointer. Oak Hill again had the one-point lead and the ball with 16 seconds left when Johnson fouled Cook and sent him to the line for a one-and-one. Cook hit both free throws which gave Oak Hill a three-point lead and Montrose Christian the ball in the closing seconds. Oak Hill chose not to foul Montrose Christian, allowing Johnson to hit Anderson for a three-pointer which tied up the game with two seconds left. Cook missed a ¾ court shot in the remaining seconds which sent them game into double-overtime.

Montrose Christian blew out Oak Hill in the second overtime period as they outscored Oak Hill, 9-2. Key players for Oak Hill such as Wilson and guard Jordan Adams, who combined for 32 points in the game, shot poorly from behind the arc and on the wing which allowed Montrose Christian to run away with the game. Other than Johnson (21 points), Carrera (20 points and 13 rebounds), and Justin Anderson (15 points and 11 rebounds), big-man Kevin Larsen came up huge for Montrose Christian as he helped his team win the rebounding battle, 54-21, pulling down nine of his own and adding 10 points. Johnson ended up being the tournament MVP as he shot 11-11 from the free throw line in the game and hit clutch shots to keep Montrose Christian alive. He scored 55 points over the three-day tournament but was more important in his role as a facilitator as he made great passes giving his teammates easy buckets. Johnson played his best game of the tournament in the championship game and gave Montrose Christian the 71-64 win, in a double-overtime game that will surely be remembered for years.

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