Findlay Prep claims second straight ESPN Rise title

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by Stephen D. Riley

Behind their dynamic duo of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, the Findlay Prep Pilots of Henderson, Nev., claimed their second consecutive ESPN Rise National High School Invitational title with a 59-46 rout of the Montverde Academy Eagles of Montverde, Fla. April 3.

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LEAD PILOT— Findlay Prep’s Cory Joseph, shown here during the McDonald’s All-American Game March 29, scored 17 points to lead Findlay past Montverde in last Saturday’s ESPN/Rise National High School Invitational title game.

The pair of McDonald’s All-Americans put on a show for a national audience as ESPN televised the game from Coppin State University’s Physical Education Complex in Baltimore.

Findlay Prep is ranked fifth in the nation by ESPN with a 32-2 record, including a 54-51 defeat at the hands of fourth-ranked Montverde (23-5) in late January. In that game, Thompson left in the first quarter with an injured ankle, but his presence for the rematch proved vital as the Texas-bound forward dominated the paint with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. The 6-10  All-American repeatedly cleaned the glass, picking up rebounds and dashing down the court to dish off to teammate Joseph.

Joseph, still undecided on his college selection, simmered down from his 32-point outburst in the semifinals but contributed a respectable performance with 17 points, three steals and four rebounds. Montverde’s duo of Jamail Jones and James Bell combined to score 31 points, but the pair couldn’t help Montverde avoid a critical late-game drought.

Montverde scored only two points in the final three minutes of regulation, fading down the stretch after a strong start.

As they’ve done for the last three years, Findlay Prep finished the season strong and the club’s second consecutive title at the ESPN tournament is a high note for Thompson and his fellow graduating seniors.

“It means a lot,” Thompson told ESPN’s Jay Williams. “This season we had some ups and downs but just to culminate it with a national championship is a kid’s dream.”

Montverde has been living a dream of their own behind third-year head coach Michael Peck, who has guided the school to national prominence with a 98-3 record over the last three seasons.

Continuing that success next season without the aid of his two All-Americans could be difficult for Peck, a problem the coach acknowledged.

“We’re going to dearly miss those two,” Peck told ESPN’s Tim McCormick. “Not just in terms of players but them as individuals and as people. We’ve really embraced them and have come close to them, it’s a great relationship.”

This is the second year of ESPN’s Rise National High School Invitational. Last year, the tournament was held at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md. Montverde’s Jamail Jones will attend Marquette University next season while his teammate James Bell will attend Villanova.

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