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March 11, 2010

Barton leads Brewster to championship

The top eight prep school teams from around the country met up in New Haven, Connecticut over the last two days to crown a national champion. NEPSAC champion and second seed Brewster Academy took the title with a 79-76 overtime win over Northfield Mount Hermon in the final as Will Barton earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.

Barton led Brewster in scoring for all three games, including a game high 24 in the finals.

Brewster opened the tournament with a quarterfinal win over seventh seeded Westwind Prep from Arizona 93-83, setting up a meeting with St. Thomas More after the Chancellors knocked off third seeded Winchendon with an overtime buzzer beater from Tre Bowman.

On the other side of the bracket, top seeded Hargrave Military Academy scored a 95-82 win over defending national champions Tilton in a rematch of last year's final as Mardracus Wade connected on nine first half three-pointers and a team high 34 points for the game. Tilton was led by Gerard Coleman who scored a tournament high 43 points including 29 in the second half.

Northfield Mount Hermon scored a mini upset over Notre Dame Prep in the last of the quarterfinals getting 29 points from post-graduate center Majok Majok.
But NMH was just getting warmed up as they would return Wednesday to knock off top seeded Hargrave in the first semi-final of the day. Hector Harold and Laurent Rivard led the way with 20 and 19 points respectively but it was Matt Brown who was clutch on both ends of the floor in the final thirty seconds to earn NMH the win and send them on to the final.

Brewster faced a familiar foe in St. Thomas More in the other semi-final and the two teams battled it out for all 40 minutes before Brewster was finally able to advance with a 74-69 win. Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe made the play of the game when he came off a ball screen and lofted a running floater over STM center Andre Drummond to give Brewster their final lead with just under one minute to play.

It looked as if Cinderella would dance through the finals early on in the championship game as Northfield opened a quick double digit lead as Rivard once again caught fire from behind the three-point line. But Brewster would gradually fight back and utilize a balanced offensive attack to tie the game with only two minutes remaining. The two teams would strike back and forth until with just ten seconds left to play they were still deadlocked. Barton had a chance to win it for his team on the final possession of regulation but got himself caught in the air when no good luck at the rim presented itself.

Brewster drew first blood in the overtime and seemed to be gradually pulling away when stretching the lead to six with just one minute to play, but NMH's Harold would hit a three-pointer to make it a single possession game. After NMH got a defensive stop they had ten seconds left on the clock to try and even a 79-76 deficit, but Brewster was able to lock down defensively and give up only a challenged 35 foot fade away. The ball bounced off the rim as time expired, giving Brewster Academy their first ever national title.

Barton led four players in double figures with C.J. Fair, Melvin Ejim, and Maurice Walker stepping up at various points.

With the win Brewster finishes the season with a record of 34-5 and becomes the first team to capture both the NEPSAC Class A title and the National Prep Championship in the same year.

This is the fourth year that the National Prep Championship has crowned an undisputed champion of the prep school season. Notre Dame Prep took the first ever title in 2007 as Michael Beasley earned MVP honors in his hometown of Washington D.C. and Notre Dame knocked off Bridgton Academy. In 2008 Hargrave Military Academy and MVP Dee Bost defeated Findlay College Prep in the finals at Fordham University in the Bronx of New York. Last year the Tilton School delighted the hometown crowd as they stunned Hargrave Military Academy in the finals at a sold out Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts with Jamal Coombs-McDaniel picking up MVP honors.


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