*Full stats at the bottom of article*
With a 42-37 score and eight seconds left in the second quarter, the Titans of the New Faith Christian Academy (GA) would’ve been only the third team of the year to match Huntington Prep’s point total in a quarter.
Bridges drove coast to coast down the left side of the court and tricked a defender with a behind the back move at the wing that forced a defender to the left. Bridges continued to the right and finished with a one hand slam.
The finish was symbolic for the second half, where the Fighting Irish of Huntington Prep (12-2) outscored the Titans 51-25 to win 95-62.
“The game was rough at first,” senior point guard Curtis Jones said. “But once we started having fun and playing together, that’s when we start playing good basketball.”
“We played great,” sophomore guard Johnathan Kabongo said. “We started slow like Curt said, but we kicked it up in the second-half, brought the energy and it got us the lead.”
“It’s definitely a hard team to prepare for, especially with a guy like Miles Bridges on the team,” New Faith Christian head coach Sean Rutherford said. “He’s a superstar. He’s big and strong, but our game plan was to try and rattle them. After watching film, we saw that they don’t get pressed that much. Other teams let Miles freely do his thing, so our game plan in the beginning was to try to rough them up a little bit and get into their heads.”
Bumping, shuffling inches in front of their faces and quietly, but evidently hissing while Huntington Prep shot their free throws, New Faith Christian brought out the works in a hotly contested first half. Their most noticeable attempt to gain advantageous positions to win the game was their 1-2-2/2-2-1 press that tried to create a web of confusion.
“We call it spider,” Rutherford said. “One purpose is to trap on the corners and get the ball out of the point guard’s hands. We knew that if we played a traditional 2-3 zone or man-to-man, Miles would take advantage because we’re smaller. The whole purpose was to press and get it out of the point guard’s hands or make them turn it over so we can run in transition.”
As either senior Ivan Gandia or Jones brought the ball past half-court, one of them would be trapped by the front man of the 1-2-2 and a guard/forward of the middle of the zone. Three times did the initial ball-handler for Prep throw it behind the other guard because he wasn’t expecting his teammate to be trapped.
Those instances and the Titans’ ability within the 1-2-2 to close off the paint made baskets tough for Bridges and held junior forward Boko Mupungu to three free throws. Prep still tried to force passes through the paint and that led to steals and numerous fast break points.
However, after Bridges’ full-court game changer, it was clear that all the Fighting Irish had to do was hold their dukes up a little higher and enjoy the fight.
“Yeah there was the lack of energy in the first half,” Jones said. “Energy and when we start having fun, getting some dunks and playing together, everybody starts moving the ball and playing well.”
Prep’s new found fun could be attributed to Jones, who had five steals out of their second half total of eight. This led to an abundance of dunks including one from him at 4:38 of the fourth quarter that saw his head reach the inner rectangle of the backboard.
“I was just trying to step it up,” Jones said. “We were struggling on defense so I just took it upon myself to start everything up.”
Kabongo had his half of the season in the second half, hitting three three-pointers in the third quarter and scoring five in the fourth off a tough and-one lay-up and a breakaway dunk from his lone steal of the game.
“I was just patient with my shot,” Kabongo said. “I got in the game and I didn’t worry about forcing the shot. When the shot comes, I’ll take it. If I continue to do that, I’ll earn better opportunities as the season goes on.”
After the match, Rutherford said if he could’ve went about the match differently, he would’ve stressed more patience as Kabongo did when his shots came.
“We should’ve taken our time,” Rutherford said. “Still be relentless on the guards, even though Curtis Jones, who’s a stud, is used to full-court pressure. I would still be relentless, rebound excellently and make sure our guys are not in foul trouble.”
Huntington Prep has a week off until December 19 when they play Greensboro Day (NC) at the Chik-Fil-A Classic in Columbia, SC.
Tip-off at 5:40 PM ET.
Stat lines for Huntington Prep:
- Miles Bridges (Michigan State), senior: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, block
- Curtis Jones (Indiana), senior: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.
- Johnathan Kabongo, sophomore: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, block.
- Onuralp Bitim, junior (Offer from Georgia Tech): 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, steal.
- Ivan Gandia, senior (Ivy League hopeful): 8 points, 4 rebounds, assist
- Luka Petrovic, senior (Ivy League hopeful): 4 points, rebound, 3 assists, steal.
- Boko Mupungu, junior: 3 points, 2 rebounds.
- Arvin Dhillon, sophomore: 3 points, 2 rebounds.
- Trace Young, junior (Offer from Kansas State): 1 point, 2 rebounds, assist, steal.