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Montverde claims City of Palms title

By Staff | Dec 24, 2019

Montverde Academy senior and Florida State University commit Scottie Barnes (11) puts up a shot during the City of Palms Classic championship game Monday night at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College. To view more photos from the game, see the Cape Coral Breeze Facebook page. MICHAEL PISTELLA mpistella@breezenewspapers.com

Montverde Academy once again reigned supreme atop the high school basketball world, defeating IMG Academy 63-55 Monday night at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College, to claim the 47th annual Culligan City of Palms Classic tournament title — their fourth in school history.

Scottie Barnes, a Florida State commit, took home Most Valuable Players honors for the second time in his high school career. Barnes dropped 15 points in the title game, along with 12 rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes of play. Barnes was the No. 3 overall rebounder in the tournament and No. 2 assist man — not something you typically see from a 6-foot-8 forward.

After a slow start offensively, the Eagles started to settle in and had big second and third quarters that propelled them to victory.

“We didn’t start well,” said Montverde Head Coach Kevin Boyle post game. “I haven’t really analyzed it yet — if it was a little bit of nerves waiting to play in a championship game (or) waiting to play IMG having lost to them last year.”

IMG’s Jaden Springer got off to a hot start for the Ascenders, knocking down his first two shots. Before the Montverde knew it, IMG started the game on a 9-2 run and their top player, Cade Cunningham (No. 2 senior via ESPN), an Oklahoma State signee, got into foul trouble.

Montverde Academy senior and North Carolina commit Day'Ron Sharpe (23) dunks during the City of Palms Classic championship game Monday night at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College. To view more photos from the game, see the Cape Coral Breeze Facebook page. MICHAEL PISTELLA mpistella@breezenewspapers.com

The Eagles would rebound before the first quarter came to an end, finding themselves down only 13-9.

In the second, an injury to Springer (he would return after the half) combined with sloppy possessions for IMG and smooth ball movement and offensive possessions for Montverde, saw the tide turn the Eagles way. At the half, they had a 30-25 advantage.

IMG’s size (usually three bigs on the floor) was a small obstacle for Montverde to figure out. They continued to move the ball well on offense and poured in 19 third quarter points, giving them a 10-point advantage heading into the final quarter.

IMG would outscore Montverde 16-14 in the final stanza, but the damage was done and the consensus No. 1 team in the country was once again City of Palms champs.

Boyle said the game was a good test for his team, who haven’t had many, if any, close games to open the season.

IMG senior and Tennessee commit Jaden Springer (11) moves with the ball during the City of Palms Classic championship game Monday night at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College. To view more photos from the game, see the Cape Coral Breeze Facebook page. MICHAEL PISTELLA mpistella@breezenewspapers.com

“I think we’re a lot better than we played, and I think it’s also good that it was competitive and close — that we don’t think we’re a lot better,” Boyle said. “I think it’s important for our guys to think that we can lose.

“This was good for us. Especially the fact that we’re playing them anywhere from one — probably two — could be three more times,” Boyle said.

For Barnes, his second City of Palms MVP and tournament title is a great accomplishment in his final year of high school basketball.

“I feel great,” Barnes said of winning the tournament and MVP. “It was pretty tough how it started off and then we came out here and pulled out a great team victory.

“After they came out on us and we weren’t scoring the ball, we knew we really had to pick it up. We stepped it up and started playing the way we’re capable of.”

Lehigh junior Nate Cadet rises up for a layup during the Lightning's 70-63 victory over Venice in the Hugh Thimlar Tribute game at the City of Palms Classic. The 6-foot-4 junior dropped 14 points in 23 minutes of play, adding six boards and a blocked shot. CJ HADDAD cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

Montverde’s Day’ron Sharpe also had an impressive night for the Eagles, scoring 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and collected seven rebounds.

Springer led the way for IMG with 16 points and 10 boards. Moussa Diabate and Mark Williams also scored in double-figures.

*Hugh Thimlar Tribute Game

For the first time in City of Palms history, a game was held to commemorate the late Hugh Thimlar, one of the area’s premiere basketball coaches and 26-year head coach at Edison Community College — what is now Florida SouthWestern State College.

Lehigh Senior High School took on Venice in one of the best contests of the tournament.

Lehigh's Markel Carter makes a pass during the Lightning's 70-63 victory over Venice in the Hugh Thimlar Tribute game at the City of Palms Classic. Markel scored 12 points, three assists and three boards. CJ HADDAD cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

The Lightning rallied from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to come back and win 70-63. Lehigh had four players in double-digits, with Quinton Desamours leading the way with 17, adding six dimes and three boards.

Lehigh Head Coach Gregory Coleman called a time out in the third and told his men to turn flip the switch. Out of the timeout, Lehigh took a Venice charge, giving the Lightning the ball and the momentum switched from that point on.

“Resiliant win,” said Coleman. “In the first half, Venice didn’t have any turnovers — and that’s not us. We are not a good enough half court team to play a team and force zero turnovers. In order for us to win the game, we were going to have to force turnovers, whether it was taking charges, trapping, rotating the right way — I think those guys learned real quick that you can get turnovers if you fly around and create havoc, and that’s what those guys did late in the game.”

After it was all said and done, Venice committed 15 turnovers to Lehigh’s 13. The Lightning only got stronger as the game progressed, as their point total per quarter increased from 12, to 14, to 18 to a whopping 26-point fourth.

At the half, Coleman willed his team to perform with more vigor and intensity, as their record was in jeopardy of falling to 2-7.

Lehigh senior guard Darren Humphrey rises up for a dunk during the Lightning's 70-63 victory over Venice in the Hugh Thimlar Tribute game at the City of Palms Classic. CJ HADDAD cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

“The message was, honestly, you have 16 minutes to turn this season around,” Coleman said. “Because if you don’t get this one, it’s going to be rough.”

Venice stand-out Malachi Wideman, fresh off of his dunk contest victory the night before, gave Lehigh issues to start. The 6-foot-5 senior would eventually foul out with 14 points, opening things up for the Lehigh offense. Mason Brooks, another starting big for Venice, fouled out shortly after Wideman, giving Lehigh the size advantage, which they exploited late in the game.

The Lightning got a spark off the bench from twins Marvel and Markel Carter, the pair of guards keeping the pressure on Venice point guards while on the floor. Markel also added 12 points, three assists and three boards.

Center/power forward Nate Cadet was involved heavily on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor for Lehigh. The 6-foot-4 junior dropped 14 points in 23 minutes of play, adding six boards and a blocked shot.

“Hardest working kid I’ve ever coached — bar none,” Campbell said of Cadet.

Darron Humphrey also filled the stat sheet for Lehigh, scoring 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds, an assist and a block.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj