By Christopher Lawlor
FORT MYERS, Fla. — In one of the biggest upsets in GEICO High School Nationals’ history, the top seeds and the nation’s No. 1 team fell in the quarterfinals.
Simply put, eighth-seeded Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) wanted it more and it was courtesy of a clutch three-point field goal with time running out during a stunning 59-56 victory over Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) before a shocked crowd in the Suncoast Credit Union Arena on the campus of Florida SouthWest State University.
Sophomore forward Zion Sensley buried a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to unlock a 56-all game. And when Kansas-bound Gradey Dick’s desperation 40-foot shot was partially blocked at the horn, the upset was complete.
No one saw this coming but perhaps Prolific.
The Crew (26-6) play fourth-seeded Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) on Friday in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Crew won it from beyond the arc, draining 11 of 29 shots, including 7 of 16 in the second half.
Prolific was shorthanded from the start as a pair of McDonald’s All Americans, M.J. Rice (Kansas) and 6-10 center Adem Bona (UCLA), did not play.
In spite of their shortcomings, the Crew came to play.
The fourth quarter featured four ties at 47, 49, 51 and 56. That’s until Sensley (six points), who played 10 minutes, came on for the last shot and played hero.
Jordan Pope’s five threes led to a game-high 23 points and Tre White, a USC recruit, added 17 with four threes.
Scotty Middleton scored 16 points and Mark Mitchell added 15 for the Buffaloes, who wound up 25-2. Sunrise won the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference title but thought bigger and better things were on the horizon.
That dream was dashed in the Florida sunshine.
The Crew went up by as many as four points (40-36) late in the third quarter but Middleton’s three brought Sunrise within a point and then junior guard Layden Blocker (nine points) beat his man off the bounce and slammed home two points for a 41-40 lead.
When Pope canned his second consecutive 3-pointer from deep in the left corner, suddenly the Crew led 37-34. It was the first lead since going up 3-0 in the opening minute of the contest. Mitchell given Sunrise a 34-28 edge but White and Pope sank a trio of threes in a three minute stretch to rally.
At halftime, Sunrise maintained its lead, 30-26. Every time the Buffaloes attempted to leave the Crew in their wake, it was rebuffed. Middleton pushed the lead to nine points, 30-21, as Middleton finished a fastbreak and then added a traditional three-point play. Middleton tallied eight in the first half.
Pope, who scored 10 points in the opening 16 minutes, drained a 3-pointer with 35 second left to close out the scoring.
After a scoreless first quarter, Dick (five points) canned a 3-pointer and two free throws as Sunrise led 19-15. White answered back on the next possession with a corner three-ball of his own to make it 19-18 at 4:50
The Buffaloes were up 12-9 when Blocker converted a traditional three-point play with under three minutes to go but Prolific wouldn’t slip back and trailed 14-13.
It was a slow start for both teams as Sunrise led 7-5 at 3:50. Sensley of Prolific and Mitchell of Sunrise each canned 3-pointers to open the scoring for their squads.
Sensley didn’t score again until the clock ticked down and that’s exactly where his shot went: right down the net.