FORT MYERS, Fla. -- And they said traveling wasn’t allowed in basketball.
Montverde (Fla.) Academy defeated Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 58-53 in the championship game of the City of Palms Classic. The game began at Bishop Verot High on Monday and ended three hours and 24 minutes later, on Tuesday, at Fort Myers High.
Montverde (10-0) led 3-0 when the game was halted because the air conditioning wasn’t working well enough to compensate for the packed gym at Bishop Verot.
Players were slipping because they were perspiring heavily in the heat and the floor became dangerously slippery. When banishing the crowd and using fans didn’t seem to fix the problem, the game was moved and many of those in attendance drove to the new site, approximately four miles away.
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A few minutes after the teams relocated to Fort Myers High, which, ironically, was the original site of the City of Palms Classic, Montverde took a 26-8 lead on a three-pointer by Ahmaad Rorie.
“We were just talking (on the drive over) that nothing was set in stone and we had to come ready to play,” said Rorie, who led the Eagles with 13 points. “We put our music on, but when we got here, we got ready to play. … This is the first time I’ve been in this situation, but it’s all in a gym.”
Paul VI coach Glenn Farello didn’t show any anxiety and the Panthers (8-1) played their way back into the game by starting the second half nearly as well as Montverde did the first. The Panthers went on a 14-8 run after the break, culminating with a tip-in by Marcus Derrickson that cut Montverde’s lead to 47-40 at the start of the fourth quarter. The closest the Panthers would get down the stretch was within two several times. Not surprisingly, because of the changes, the play was sloppy. Montverde had 20 turnovers to 15 for Paul VI, but made up for it with better shooting and rebounding.
“Tonight, we didn’t come out with our best effort in the first quarter and they came out and hit a lot of shots,” Farello said. “They hit six threes in the first quarter alone. They jumped on us early and then after halftime, we were able to keep it within distance and our kids walked them down and we had our opportunities, but we were not able to convert enough of them and you can’t leave those type of points on the table against a team like Montverde.”
“It was an unbelievably sloppy game,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “One, in the first gym, obviously the floor was slippery. The balls were over-inflated; there were uncharacteristic turnovers by both teams. Sometimes when you’re up that much on a team, it’s hard. The big thing is they cut it to seven and we pressed them back, stole the ball and went in for a dunk.”
It was the second consecutive City of Palms title for the Eagles, who finished last season as the No. 1 team in the Super 25 rankings.
Besides Rorie, the Eagles got some big plays from Chris Egi, who scored six of his eight points in the second half, including the dunk mentioned by Boyle.
“I just want to play hard every time I am out there,” said the Harvard-bound Egi. “You do that and good things happen.”
Simmons, Whitehead named MVPs: Montverde’s Ben Simmons and Isaiah Whitehead of Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) were named Co-MVPs of the tournament. Whitehead scored 20 points to lead the Railsplitters in the fifth-place game of the tournament as they defeated Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 73-57. Simmons had nine points and 12 rebounds in the championship game.
Rodriguez commits to Seton Hall: Desi Rodriguez, who played a great complementary role to Whitehead on Monday, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds and four assists, may get a chance to play alongside his Lincoln teammate at the next level. Rodriguez committed on Monday to Seton Hall. Whitehead committed to Seton Hall in September.
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“Me and Isaiah have a great relationship off the court,” Rodriguez said. “We’re more like brothers. We know how to contribute together.”
Like none other: Jahlil Okafor led Whitney Young (Chicago) to a 63-55 defeat of Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) for third place, scoring 22 points with 23 rebounds and five blocks. Among those in attendance was former 1987 ALL-USA player Marcus Liberty, who starred at King High and played for four seasons in the NBA. Liberty came away impressed by the 7-foot Okafor.
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“He’s old school,” Liberty said. “I don’t remember playing against anybody in high school that big that had footwork like that.”