A lot of prep basketball fans have wondered how the towering Lone Peak Knights would fare against a high-tempo team loaded with quickness and speed.
Apparently, pretty well.
In Friday's 75-57 win over Centennial High from Roswell, Ga., at the prestigious T-Mobile Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., the Knights showed that when they can control the game's tempo, their size can neutralize some of the fastest basketball players in the country.
"We can run when we need to and we can play half court when we need to, but we're going to try to play with the tempo that we want to play," Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said after his team's 18-point win over Georgia's state championship runner-up from a year ago.
Centennial, which lost for only the second time this year, entered the contest averaging close to 70 points per game. Normally, it takes only two or three passes and about 10-15 seconds per possession to get off a shot. Lone Peak, with three players on the court at all times taller than 6-foot-7, forced Centennial to make about six or seven passes per possession and settle mainly for outside shots.
Lone Peak also only allowed Centennial a second shot less than a handful of times by controlling the boards, finishing with a 16-rebound advantage. On the other end, the Knights won by 18 despite shooting only 42 percent from the floor because they were able to pull down 21 offensive rebounds. At one point in the third quarter, Lone Peak had as many offensive rebounds as Centennial had total rebounds.
Actually, the final margin is a little misleading about how close the game was for the first three quarters. The score was tied seven times and the lead changed hands 13 times. During the first three periods, Lone Peak's biggest lead was five and Centennial's four. In fact, Centennial led 52-51 early in the final period until Lone Peak was able to pull away down the stretch by finishing on a 24-5 run.
"I think our size and physicality finally wore them out by the time it hit the fourth quarter," Lewis said. "Once we got up by 10, it looked like fatigue set in and they were gassed."
Lone Peak forward Josh Sharp played a huge role in that fourth quarter charge by scoring 14 of his 19 points in the final frame. In a 14-3 run that put the Knights up by 10 midway through the frame, Sharp hit four buckets and popped in three free throws.
"His athleticism can match up with anybody," Lewis said.
Junior Tyler Haws finished as high scorer with 26. His attacking of the basket in the first half kept Lone Peak in charge most of the early going. In the second half he had several huge baskets on the break, including a twister in the fourth quarter in which he was fouled for an old-fashioned three-point play.
"He finished it so well today in transition," Lewis said.
Another key statistic came from the line. Lone Peak hit 20 of 28 free throws, while Centennial made 11 of 25.
Lone Peak, the defending Utah 5A champion, is a team growing with confidence and feels it can beat any other team. However, the Knights will really have their hands full today when they meet the St. Anthony Friars from Jersey City, N.J., in the T-Mobile championship game. St. Anthony finished last season as the top-ranked high school team in the country. The Friars, winners by 50 points on Friday, are even faster and quicker than Centennial.
"If we can get into our offense and do the things that we want to do, we have a chance to win," Lewis said. "If we can't, then we'll probably lose."The championship game tips off at 3:30 p.m. and is being televised nationally on the Versus network.