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December 30, 2012

Four earn honors at Raleigh event

MORE: Copeland gains notice in Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. -- DeSoto (Texas) High and Raleigh Word of God Christian Academy took home the titles Saturday at the 41st annual Holiday Invitational at Broughton High School.

Word of God senior center Tyrek Coger scored 17 points in a 58-53 upset victory over New Hampton (N.H.) School to earn MVP honors in the Shavlik Randolph bracket.

Duke signee Matt Jones of DeSoto iced the 45-42 victory over Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph with free throws down the stretch to finish with nine points to be named MVP in the Summit Hospitality bracket.

St. Joseph junior center Karl Towns, a Kentucky commit, was named Most Outstanding Player in the Summit, while North Carolina power forward signee Isaiah Hicks of Oxford (N.C.) Webb was MOP in the Shavlik Randolph bracket.

DeSoto rolling

DeSoto High entered the tourney fresh off a nationally televised victory over then No. 1-ranked Chicago Simeon. The Eagles proved to be a well-rounded squad under coach Chris Dyer. They edged Kinston (N.C.) High, Hampton (Va.) High and St. Joseph to win the title.

"This was probably the toughest three days we've had, and this is a hellacious tournament," Dyer said. "All three teams, I feel like I've been through a marathon, and I'm tired."

The sharpshooting Jones was off from the field during the three games -- he combined to go 11-for-38 -- but he was clutch at the line, going 20-of-22, with several coming in the last minute of close games.

"It means a lot and just to see the smiles on my teammates faces when we won," Jones said. "Just being in North Carolina and the bragging rights that you have. I'm definitely proud of my team. People didn't think we would win, but we did."

Jones will be joining a talented group of wings at Duke next year, including recruiting classmate Semi Ojeleye, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, senior Andre Dawkins, who is redshirting this season, fellow Texas native Rasheed Sulaimon, who is a contender for ACC Rookie of the Year, and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy.

"It's a great feeling to just come down here to North Carolina, which will be my future home soon, and win this tournament with my teammates," Jones said. "They are the guys I love. Being one of the few seniors, I definitely have to have that role where guys look up to me and to make the right play at the end (of games).

"I just want to do my role, and my role is being the leader. Being the leader, you have to make the big plays, and me being a big-time player, I want to be in that position."

Junior teammates Terry Maston, a power forward, guard Takedrick Brown and forward Devin Wyatt filled the scoring void. Maston proved to be a reliable scorer in the paint, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds in the title game while guarding Towns.

Brown didn't shoot well from deep against St. Joseph (0-for-5 from 3-point land) but proved to be a knockdown shooter in the first two games (6-of-13 from beyond the arc). The athletic Wyatt, who earned all-tournament-team honors, blocked 12 shots in the semifinals over Hampton and added seven points in the title game.

Towns got into early foul trouble for the second straight game but managed to play through it, and he didn't get his third foul until 5:07 left in the contest. However, he had to be tentative at times instead of cutting loose. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, but he was just touching the surface of what he could do.

Towns' ability to stretch the defense was never more evident than in the second half, when he hit three 3-pointers to get St. Joseph back in the game. Junior wing Wade Baldwin's three-point play cut the DeSoto lead to 42-40 with 2:15 left, but St. Joseph couldn't get over the hump and Jones iced the game with his free throws.

Baldwin and Marques Townes combined for 16 points, and senior center James Ziemba added 10 points and five rebounds for St. Joseph. The 6-9 Ziemba is headed to Duke to pitch for the Blue Devils.

Unlikely local champion

Raleigh Word of God won the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational in 2007 and finished second in 2008 and 2009 behind numerous stars. The Holy Rams struggled the last two years, finishing fifth in 2010 and tied for seventh last year.

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, NC State junior power forward C.J. Leslie, Maryland sophomore wing Dezmine Wells, former Miami shooting guard Bishop Daniels and Morehead State senior forward Milton Chavis were the nucleus of the earlier years.

NC State freshman forward T.J. Warren, Tennessee sophomore center Yemi Makanjuola, former Delaware State power forward Abdul Kasim and Chipola junior college teammates Joseph Uchebo, a sophomore center, and freshman wing Torian Graham, arrived to play with Wells and Daniels under coach Quentin Jackson in 2010.

Jackson, a former NC State guard and director of operations for ex-Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe, coached the 2010 squad and stepped aside last year. Jackson is back on the sidelines, and the difference was proven Saturday.

"This removes the stigma that we are playing on the reputation of John Wall and C.J. Leslie and gives these guys their own stake in the ground," Jackson said. "It gives the program credibility, and that is what we aspire to do, to make Word of God one of the premier programs in the country."

Senior point guard Josh Newkirk, who signed with Pittsburgh, and senior wing Camden Scott were the only players on the roster who played for Jackson in 2010. Transfers from various public schools have flocked to Word of God the last two years, and Coger was added just a few weeks ago after attending Raleigh Upper Room Christian Academy his first three years and Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy to start the school year this season.

Word of God stifled the inside game of New Hampton's Noah Vonleh, who is the Rivals.com No. 7-ranked player and heading to Indiana, and junior power forward Tory Miller, who proved to be a tough cover in the Huskies' first two games. Vonleh finished 3-for-8 from the field and missed all five free throws to finish with seven points and four rebounds, while Miller went 2-of-3 for four points and three boards.

Senior point guard Travis Jorgenson (10 points), senior slashing shooting guard Lincoln Davis (13 points) and junior sharpshooting wing Mike LeBlanc (eight points) tried to keep New Hampton in the game with their perimeter scoring.

Coger, who listed offers from Villanova, Illinois State and Tennessee Tech, was efficient around the rim for 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, while Newkirk often delivered him the passes to finish with 11 points and nine assists.

"This means a lot because, the last two years, I didn't get out of the first round," Newkirk said. "To win it is just real big."

Coger, a former Missouri commit, played in his first Holiday Invitational last year while at Upper Room with NC State freshman shooting guard Rodney Purvis. Coger scored a combined 49 points in the three games this week, including 23 against Oxford Webb on Friday.

"It's an honor [to be MVP], but at the end of the day, it's a team thing," said Coger, who hopes he can play himself into an eventual NC State offer. "I want to say thank you to the ones who named me MVP, and it's going to make me a better player.

"Going against Isaiah Hicks, a North Carolina commitment, I just felt that I wanted to prove something. He's a good guy and a good leaper, but I wanted to show I had talent too. Noah is a good kid and going to Indiana with a good game, but I just felt like I wanted to win that matchup and prepared to."

Word of God also had to play without Lehigh wing signee Shane Whitfield for the majority of the game after he went down with a painful ankle injury. His eighth-grade brother, Jordan Whitfield, continued making a name for himself, adding eight points off the bench and earning a spot on the all-tournament team.

Senior power forward Donte Reynolds, who is a Campbell de-commit, added seven points and 10 rebounds, and senior wings Scott and JaQuon Brownridge (also a former Campbell commit), and junior wing Rodney Moore, will land somewhere in college basketball.

Point guards stand out

NC State signee Anthony Barber of Hampton (Va.) and Waxhaw (N.C.) Cuthbertson junior Shelton Mitchell started the tournament against each other Thursday, with Barber scoring 26 in a 61-59 overtime victory. Mitchell had 30.

Both players ended the tournament in strong fashion Saturday, and they arguably were the most consistent players in the field from start to finish.

Barber easily had his best game of the three-game tourney in the Crabbers' 70-59 win over host Broughton High. He got help from his teammates in comparison to his first two games. Barber seemed relaxed and in the flow of the game, and he didn't have to force the action as much to finish with 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Old Dominion signee Jordan Baker added 17 and Cyonte Melvin had 15 in the win. Hampton didn't have anyone else in double figures in its first two games.

Mitchell had 11 of his 18 points in the second half, including a pair of dunks, to help Cuthbertson rally for a 67-54 win over Holly Springs (N.C.) High. The crafty lefty is great at playing to his strengths and has a superb feel for the game. He didn't attempt a 3-pointer against Holly Springs, and more consistency from downtown is the next step in his development.

Tip-ins

Re-classed junior combo forward Isaac Copeland continued to impress in Crozet (Va.) Miller School's 60-58 win over Apex (N.C.) High. Copeland went for 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots, and shot 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. His skill level is impressive for a 6-foot-8 player, and he got help inside from senior post player Tony Washington, who powered to 18 points and 10 boards against Apex's undersized frontcourt.

Unsigned senior guard Travis Hester also got hot from outside and went 5-for-9 on 3-pointers to finish with 17 for Miller School.

Apex junior combo guard T.J. Evans played with swagger in trying to spark the Cougars past Miller School. He had 24 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers. Freshman wing Ian Boyd also proved to be a player with Division I potential, and he has a nose for scoring.

Notre Dame was the only school represented in the gym for the game.

A pair of Appalachian State signees had productive tournaments. Senior center Mike Kobani of High Point (N.C.) Christian had 22 points and nine rebounds in the Cougars' 65-52 win over Oxford Webb and Hicks. Broughton point guard Devonte Graham finished with 19 points and shot 6-for- 13 from the field against Hampton High and Barber. The duo should help Appalachian State climb toward the top in the Southern Conference.

UNC signee Hicks played a pair of strong games before hitting the wall against High Point Christian, finishing with 12 points. His jumper wasn't falling and, outside of dunks, he couldn't turn to a post move to get easy baskets inside. Junior wing Mitron Terry also tailed off after having 32 points and 24 in his first two contests. He finished with six points and six rebounds but put himself on the recruiting map.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried came by to watch his son, Cameron Gottfried of Broughton, play against Barber. Notre Dame, Duke and UNC Greensboro also were spotted at various points of the day.



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