Highland (Utah)-Lone Peak might be No. 1 in one high school boys basketball poll, but it has been considered an underdog by many to win this week's City of Palms Classic.
Now the Knights get a chance tonight to prove they are the best team in the country.
Lone Peak, which is ranked No. 1 by MaxPreps, convincingly defeated Memphis (Tenn.)-Southwind, 67-52, on Friday night at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers in the Classic's early semifinal.
Lone Peak will face Orlando-Montverde Academy, which is the No. 1-ranked team by ESPN, for the championship tonight at 9 in a tournament organizer's dream. Montverde Academy defeated Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, 76-51, in the second semifinal Friday.
"We're definitely an underdog," Lone Peak's head coach Quincy Lewis said. "But we'll come to play and do what we do."
Brigham Young recruit T.J. Haws led Lone Peak and all scorers with 24 points, scoring 15 of them in the second half. Haws also recorded four assists and three steals in the win. Fellow BYU recruit Nick Emery scored 16 points in the winning effort.
Junior Talon Shumway, a football recruit for BYU, had just six points but made perhaps the biggest shot of the night. Shumway hit a 3 from the right wing early in the third quarter and was fouled, completing a four-point play. That helped Lone Peak take momentum away from Southwind, who led 31-30 at halftime.
"Talon Shumway made one of the biggest plays of the night," Lewis said. "That was the play of the game."
Power forward Eric Mika, the 15th-best power forward in the country, scored 13 points and grabbed 12 boards for a double-double. He turned up the intensity in the second half, throwing down several dunks and bringing the crowd to its feet.
Fittingly, he also defeated Isaiah Dennis of McDonough (Ga.) Eagle's Landing in the dunk contest immediately following the game. Mika had an audience member behind the backboard throw the ball over and bounce on the ground, which the power forward slammed in with a ferocious tomahawk dunk. Before that, however, he and Haws tried — and failed — to do a soccer-style dunk.
"He told me he could do a rainbow kick over his head," Mika said, "and I think I put too much faith in him. But it was all right."
Southwind, on the other hand, was not all right in the second half of the game. After getting solid contributions across the board for two quarters, the Jaguars' shooters went ice cold in the second half. Other than four made free throws by Marquette-recruit JaJuan Johnson, only John Williams III and Lipscomb recruit Payton Hulsey were able to score. Williams, who has committed to Missouri, had 22 points and, like Haws, 15 of those came in the second half. Johnson finished with 15 points and two steals, and Hulsey added 10 points and had four steals.
"We're here to get better," Jaguars coach Paul Edwards said. "We're here to learn. We're playing for March."
There was a brief stretch in the fourth quarter where Southwind got hot and cut the deficit to eight points. But as soon as the Jaguars seemed to have realized it, they lost steam.
"Hats off to (Lone Peak)," Edwards said. "They made some adjustments and we made errors. We've got to play two halves. We shot 7-for-30 in the second half."