Big surge leads Huntington Prep to win
HUNTINGTON -- Normally, a team that makes a 25-5 run on what is essentially an opponent's home floor to earn a come-from-behind victory would make a coach happy.
Then again, the expectations for other teams are not what they are for Huntington Prep's basketball program.
The Express used the large run to earn a 75-69 win over Princeton Day (Md.) on Sunday afternoon in the National High School Hoops Festival at Dematha High School in Hyattsville, Md., but Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford was anything but pleased.
"We won these two games because of talent, and we can't continue to rely on talent alone," Fulford said. "They all stepped up and made some big plays down the stretch, but we're not playing like the No. 1 team in the country and they get that."
Princeton Day led 56-46 with 1:00 left in the third quarter before the Express got going behind a big 3-pointer from Xavier Rathan-Mayes that took the teams to the fourth quarter.
The shot seemed to flip a switch for Huntington Prep, which scored 22 of the game's next 27 points to overcome what had been a sluggish effort.
The Express did not take their first lead until Montaque Gill-Caesar hit a 3-pointer with 4:05 left to put Huntington Prep in front 61-60.
Rathan-Mayes followed with a 3-pointer before a defensive stop led to a run-out dunk for Dominic Woodson, who was also intentionally-fouled on the play.
In a six-minute stretch, the Express went from being down 10 to leading by 10.
"As far as just everybody giving effort, those six minutes were about it," Fulford said. "We got outworked the other 26 minutes and that can't happen."
Even down the stretch, Princeton Day used the offensive glass to make it interesting.
A basket by Anton Waters cut the once-10-point lead to 72-69 with just 28 seconds left, but Andrew Wiggins stepped to the line and hit three of four free throws to seal the game.
Despite the key free throws, Fulford said Wiggins' effort was not where it needed to be in the win.
"We're just playing soft right now," Fulford said. "Andrew was going through the motions for the most part. He was trying to spin and finger roll instead of attacking the basket. Yeah, he flipped the switch, but that switch can't come on and off all the time. It needs to be there.
Rathan-Mayes was named the game's Most Valuable Playe. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-13 from beyond the arc. The Florida State commit and nation's 24th-ranked player returned to the lineup in a big way after missing Saturday's win over Riverdale Baptist with a deep thigh bruise that's plagued him for two weeks.
Gill-Caesar, a top 25 prospect in the Class of 2015, stepped into the limelight a bit with 19 points and 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.
Wiggins finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but was just 4-of-16 from the floor.
He also was pressed into the duty of guarding Princeton Day point guard Aquille Carr, a lightning-quick, 5-foot-5 guard.
Carr raced around and through the Express defense early, leading Princeton Day to a 10-point first-quarter lead.
Once Wiggins switched onto him, the Seton Hall-commit had trouble dealing with Wiggins' length on his shots. Later, Fulford switched to a 1-3-1 zone that also got Carr out of his offensive rhythm.
Carr finished with 24 points, but was 8-of-31 from the floor.
"Aquille Carr is impossible to guard," Fulford said. "He has great body control and he's a tough matchup. We wanted to force him to the basket, but we needed length in case he pulled up for a three."
In addition to Carr, Waters had 16 points and 15 rebounds while Emmanuel Omogbo added 13 points and 16 rebounds.
For Huntington Prep, Moses Kingsley added 12 points, six rebounds and five blocks.
The Express return to action on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when they take on the University of Charleston JV at Spring Valley High School.
This weekend, they will be the featured attraction in the Boyd County Roundball Classic, taking on Walnut Hills (OH) at 9 p.m. on Friday before a 7 p.m. battle with Arlington Country Day (Fla.) on Saturday night.
PRINCETON DAY 19 16 21 13 -- 69: Better 9, Carr 24, Omogbo 13, Waters 16, X. Johnson 6, J. Johnson 1.
HUNTINGTON PREP 14 16 19 26 -- 75: Gill-Caesar 19, Landry 1, Rathan-Mayes 19, Wiggins 16, Kingsley 12, Woodson 6, Strake 2.