HPrep gets 'Taque-over they needed
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Prep boys basketball player Montaque Gill-Caesar isn't exactly sure what his future will hold, but there was one thing he was certain of heading into Sunday's game.
If there was a chance that it might be his last game in Huntington, Gill-Caesar wanted to leave Irish fans something to remember him by. It could've been called "The 'Taque-over."
Gill-Caesar finished with 27 points and nine rebounds to lead the Irish in a 71-61 win over Legacy Charter (S.C.) on Senior Day at Huntington St. Joe.
"I just wanted to leave everything on the court really because it is possible my last game in this gym and in Huntington," Gill-Caesar said. "This place has become a second home to me, so playing in this game, you don't want to take it for granted."
The current top 20 member of the recruiting Class of 2015 could reclassify to the Class of 2014, so Huntington Prep honored him with its other four seniors -- JaQuan Lyle, Jalen Lindsey, Josh Perkins and Coleman Spann -- on Sunday.
This was not your average Senior Day in which the outcome is essentially a formality, however.
Greenville, S.C.-based Legacy Charter came in with a 34-8 record and featured quickness and athleticism at each spot on the floor.
Huntington Prep led by 13 midway through the third quarter following a 6-0 burst that included a pair of baskets by Gill-Caesar and another by Lyle, but Legacy Charter cut the deficit to 55-53 following a 3-pointer with 4:00 left.
On the ensuing possession, Gill-Caesar spun toward the baseline and went to his left hand to bank home a 7-foot runner to push the lead back to two possessions before Thomas Bryant went to work with a pair of offensive rebounds for a layup to provide a cushion.
The Irish hit 12-of-14 free throws down the stretch to earn the win and move to 27-4 on the year.
"You need challenged, need pushed and need adversity to hit in the middle of a game," Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. "This game will only help us because it was a high-level basketball game. They were one of the more athletic, physical teams that we've played all year. They were well-coached and had quick guards."
Bryant finished with 11 rebounds -- seven in the final five minutes -- after overcoming a scary moment in the third period.
The 6-foot-10 power forward dove for a loose ball and hit his head on a concrete wall in the St. Joe gym, leaving him down for several minutes.
He returned with just more than six minutes left and helped the Irish by out-muscling Legacy Charter's smaller post players off of missed shots.
"He played well down the stretch when we needed him to," Fulford said. "He wasn't the normal Thomas Bryant for the whole game, but that last stretch, he rebounded well, was physical, got some putbacks and blocked a couple of shots."
Huntington Prep led 38-26 at halftime after Perkins found Lyle for a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Lyle had 19 points, 10 assists and five rebounds while Fulford also pointed to Perkins and Lindsey as players who fought hard throughout the contest.
Perkins, the Gonzaga commit, had a stomach bug and was sick pre-game but gutted out a performance to aid the victory.
Lindsey was a defensive stalwart and limited Alex Mills, Legacy Charter's leading scorer, to 3-for-14 shooting and 14 points.
The contest was the last on Huntington Prep's 2013-14 regular-season schedule. Now the team's focus turns to whether Senate Bill 540 -- a.k.a. the "Huntington Prep" Bill -- will be heard by the House Education Committee in the West Virginia Legislature.
The bill would allow Huntington Prep to be recognized as a college preparatory program At 27-4, the Irish have a chance to be included in the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament.
A Sunday loss might have knocked the Irish from consideration.
"The guys understood that this was the game that could put them in the tournament or out of the tournament," Fulford said. "We played it like it was a win-and-advance game."
The Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament is expected to release invitations to teams on March 10.
LEGACY CHARTER 15 11 16 19 -- 61: Sherman 8, Ellis 7, Mills 14, Maddox 5, Burton 4, Moses 13, Pinson 10.
HUNTINGTON PREP 20 18 13 20 -- 71: Gill-Caesar 27, Perkins 7, Lyle 19, Lindsey 8, Bryant 7, Bridges 3.
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