Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) staged an impromptu dance-off contest in the hallway with Memphis East (Memphis) before the two went on the floor for their City of Palms championship on Wednesday.
The victor of the dance-off is under dispute, but No. 4 Montverde (12-0) was the winner in the game. R.J. Barrett, the tournament MVP, scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half of a 63-54 victory.
“There are a lot of good players on the team, but there’s no argument about who’s the best overall player,” Eagles coach Kevin Boyle said. “There might be a bigger prospect on the team, but he’s our best player.”
Boyle is going to need a new trophy case for his City of Palms memorabilia. He also won as Montverde’s coach in 2012 and 2013 and as the coach of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) in 2010.
A key for the Eagles is despite the slow start by Barrett, they trailed only 31-29 at the half.
“He’s our best scorer, but we have so many good players on our team, we can make up for if he’s not playing well,” said Montverde guard Andrew Nembhard, one of four Canadians on the team, along with Barrett, Grant Shepard and and Rechon Black.
“We’re really close and we have our own lingo,” Shepard said. “When we first got to the school, nobody knew what we were saying. Coming from Canada, we all knew the same stuff and liked the same music.”
Shepard had 10 of his 12 points in the first half and hit a shot that put the Eagles up for good at 55-54 with three minutes to play.
“I think we won the dance-off a little bit and it translated into the game,” Shepard said. “We were ready to go. It was good to get the rivalry going.”
Round two of the rivalry will come soon. The Eagles are scheduled to play at Memphis East on Jan. 7.
“It’s round one, and we took a loss because we didn’t do our job,” said Mustangs junior guard Alex Lomax, who led his team with 18 points.
Despite the loss, it was a big week for the Mustangs, who showed they belong among the nation’s top teams, in spite of a roster that includes only three seniors. Memphis East’s backcourt of Lomax and T.J. Moss will give most teams trouble.
“I just told them it was a good experience,” Memphis East coach Penny Hardaway said. “I am proud of them for the way they fought all tournament and we lost to a good team. It’s crazy. We play I think one team and we come back and play them. I think it will be fresh in both of our minds.”