The 2019 Geico Nationals
The Geico Nationals bring together all of the elite High School Basketball programs in the country under one roof to compete for the title of National Champion. This year was nothing short of spectacular as ESPN televised the event for the world to see. High powered basketball programs like Oak Hill Academy, Montverde Academy, and La Lumiere, to name a few, would battle for superiority. Five Star talent like Cole Anthony, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Stewart, Jaden Springer and more, would pack the gym at Christ The King Regional High School and put on a show for the capacity crowd. At the end there could only be one champion.
My first day of the festivities began with a matchup between last years Champion, Montverde Academy taking on IMG Academy. Both programs have a rich history for housing some of the best ballers in the country. The reigning champion Monteverde Academy Eagles boasts a USA Today Super 25 ranking of #3 in the country and has amassed a 21-2 record this season. Led by McDonald’s All American Precious Achiuwa the purple and gold looked to make a run at Nationals. They faced a young scrappy IMG team who showed absolutely no fear whatsoever. IMG Academy has a pretty good resume and supporting cast. Head Coach Sean McAloon prepared these guys for battle and would motivate his squad to leave everything on the floor. Down by double digits heading into the the fourth quarter they would regroup to capture the lead late in the game. Junior Jaden Springer led the charge with 26 points, including a pull up jumper midway through the fourth to help IMG pull off the 74-73 win over Montverde. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl would also throw down an incredible two handed dunk that sealed Montverde’s fate. IMG managed to pull off the win by playing poised basketball and getting to the line. They need to continue to get to the line and convert to have a chance against the winner or the La Lumiere/Oak Hill game.
The 2nd game of the day would match up Oak Hill Academy vs La Lumiere School. These two school also have a long, rich history of producing NBA talent over the years. With Carmelo Anthony sitting courtside, Oak Hill Academy led by McDonalds All American Cole Anthony and big man Kofi Cockburn looked to come out victorious versus a strong La Lumiere team who featured future NBA prospects Isaiah Stewart (Washington) and Keion Brooks (Kentucky). Stewart was also a McDonalds All American and he knew they would have to play the perfect game to come away victorious. The game started out with La Lumiere grabbing an early lead in the first half. Oak Hill stormed back and the lead seesawed back and forth in the final moments. La Lumiere seemed to contain Cole Anthony and didn’t let him get the open looks that he is used to. Oak Hill still managed to keep the game close and the game went down to the wire. The crowd was on edge and with each basket you could’ve cut the tension in that gym with a knife. La Lumiere managed to pull off the victory and won the opportunity to face a tough IMG squad for the Geico National Championship.
La Lumiere School vs IMG Academy is a battle made for television. This game would bring to two evenly matched High School juggernauts together for an instant classic. La Lumiere brings an undefeated record of 30-0 to the table while IMG boasts a 30-1 record. This game would have 4 McDonald’s All Americans (3 on IMG and 1 on La Lumiere) and supporting casts on both ends who will be attending division 1 schools next year.
From the start IMG Academy played like a team on a mission. They were smaller than La Lumiere but managed to frustrate La Lumiere into taking bad shots from the field all game long. La Lumiere trailed 31-26 at half and were in a bad position to lose their first game of the season. La Lumiere big man Isaiah Stewart looked to utilize his combination of size, strength and athleticism but IMG seemed to be able to combat his play with pesky defense and points in transition from timely La Lumiere turnovers. All season long La Lumiere thrived from getting the ball inside to Isaiah Stewart but they didn’t shoot well enough from the field this game to capitalize on the inside threat. Late in the game they got a jolt of momentum a 3-pointer by Gerald Drumgoole and a steal and an underneath bucket by point guard Wendell Green Jr. to cut IMG lead to 4 late in the third quarter but it seemed as if every La Lumiere bucket was countered with a bucket from IMG. They were simply too fast and crafty for La Lumiere. Their guards kept the pressure on their opponents all game and didn’t give in one inch. They simply ran La Lumiere into the ground and seemed to be on a fast break almost every single play. IMG pulled away and ended up winning the game 66-55 and earning the right to hoist the Geico National Championship trophy.
Sharpshooter Jaden Springer had 12 points and seven assists and averaged 21 ppg for IMG, Josh Green had his best game the tournament with a game-high 19 points, and Villanova bound Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists and was also named the tournaments Most Outstanding Player. In a losing effort La Lumiere was led by Kentucky-bound Keion Brooks with 15 points, while Isaiah Stewart ended up with 14 points and seven rebounds. IMG’s talent level just outshined the competition throughout the tournament.
Congratulations to IMG Academy for winning the 2019 Geico National Championship and Proving to the world they are the best basketball program in the country. I look forward to watching them back on the big stage next year as they defend their title.
Huge Thank you goes out to Tariq Teele of Ballstar for the Photography. Salute to ESPN, the Geico Nationals team for the hospitality , and for Christ The King for being a great host.
Video provided by WhosNextHS