Montverde Academy made a statement last weekend in Florida that could echo in New York come April: The Eagles are once again prime contenders to claim prep basketball’s national championship.
The defending national champion Montverde routed perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Tampa, 76-51. This showdown between two of the last three schools to win the GEICO High School Nationals looked less like a title-game preview, and more like a coming-out party for Montverde.
“This just gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” Cade Cunningham told MaxPreps.com. “Beating them as bad as we did in this kind of environment was huge for us.”
While the Eagles did not exactly need to declare their presence—Montverde’s claimed four national titles since 2013, including the most recent—the 25-point romp does add to the intrigue of a potential matchup with La Lumiere.
Montverde moved to 19-2 on the season with the win, its only two blemishes both coming against No. 1-ranked La Lumiere. The first was a 58-51 decision Dec. 21 in Honolulu, which knocked Montverde from atop the various national high school basketball polls.
The rematch was a less competitive 64-51 final in Wheeling, West Virginia, two weeks later. Montverde trailed by 19 points heading into the fourth quarter and mustered just 32 points through the first three quarters.
Against Oak Hill, however, Montverde dominated on both ends of the floor. The depth of the Eagles roster showed up; Montverde boasts five Class of 2019 ESPN Top 100 prospects, allowing coach Kevin Boyle to turn to University of Florida-bound Omar Payne to spell Florida State signee Balsa Koprivica at center, for example. They join Precious Achiuwa, a top 20 prospect in the upcoming class.
The talent goes well beyond the Class of 2019, too, as Saturday’s standout Cade Cunningham proved. ESPN’s No. 10-ranked 2020 prospect led the charge scoring more than half of Oak Hill’s entire output, 26 points, to go with eight assists and five rebounds.
Saturday’s game capped a nice seven-day stretch for Cunningham, who scored 12 points in a 79-56 blowout of No. 9-ranked Rancho Christian, with Class of 2020 No. 1 prospect, Evan Mobley.
Even with a lineup featuring 2019 No. 2 prospect Cole Anthony, No. 44 Kofi Cockburn and No. 60 Christian Brown, Oak Hill just could not keep up. Montverde is hitting its stride and setting a national championship pace.
Before a possible trilogy with La Lumiere, the Eagles have important business on tap in the coming weekend. Montverde won’t be far from April’s national championship site in New York, embarking on a two-day swing through Union, New Jersey, for a pair of top 25 showdowns with No. 14-ranked Ranney on Friday, and No. 24 Roselle Catholic on Saturday.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.