Lone Peak's gripping march through the City of Palms Classic in Florida came to a surprisingly abrupt end Saturday night.
In the highly anticipated Palms championship match-up of No. 1s — Lone Peak in MaxPreps and Montverde, Fla., in ESPN — the Knights fell behind early and never recovered in a disheartening 66-45 loss in front of a packed gym.
"We played a poor first half offensively and just got a little bit hurried. We had shots, but they sped us up a bit," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis.
Facing an opponent with Division 1 talent in the starting lineup and coming off the bench, Lone Peak struggled at shooting all night, finishing just 33 percent from the field.
Nick Emery and Eric Mika, who were averaging 19.7 and 17.6 ppg respectively coming into the game, struggled in particular. Emery made just two 3-pointers to finish with eight points before fouling out, while Mika scored just five points to go along with 10 rebounds.
T.J. Haws was the bright spot for the Knights with 21 points, while Conner Toolson chipped in with 11 points.
"To beat that type of team you need to play your best game, and we certainly didn't tonight," said Lewis, whose team fell to 10-1 with the loss.
Senior Devin Williams, who's committed to West Virginia, scored 15 points to lead Montverde, as did highly recruited junior Dakari Johnson. Florida commit Kasey Hill scored nine points while Johnson, who has narrowed his college choices down to Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown, finished with 10.
Montverde is a private boarding school near Orlando, Fla.
Montverde started the game red-hot, building a 22-12 lead after the first quarter and extending it to 39-22 at the half by shooting 57 percent from the field.
"They played good defense. They have a seven-footer in the middle and we had a little trouble finishing in the middle," said Lewis. "We dug ourselves too big a hole."
A strong defensive effort in the third quarter gave the Knights life as they held Montverde to just four points. It had a chance to cut the deficit to eight on the final play of the third, but a 3-pointer rimmed out.
Trailing 43-32 heading into the fourth, Lone Peak could never whittle the deficit to single digits, and Montverde used a 12-2 run over the final two minutes to finish off the Knights.
"You walk out of there you're a little mad at yourself cause you know you could've played better in the first half, but on the other hand you're pleased because you beat two top-five teams to get to the championship," said Lewis.
This was the second straight year Lone Peak has run out of gas in the championship game of a major tournament. Last year it lost to Milton, Ga., 70-42 in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina
Lone Peak doesn't play again until Jan. 9, when it hosts Riverton in the Region 4 opener.