The standing-room only crowd at Kean University Friday night largely came to see an SEC-bound forward lead national powerhouse Montverde Academy against Isaiah Briscoe and his Roselle Catholic squad, and that's exactly what they got.
Just not the forward they were expecting.
With 6-9 LSU commit Ben Simmons on the bench with foul trouble for a prolonged period in the second half, teammate and future SEC rival Noah Dickerson (Florida) stepped forward in his absence and dominated inside to lead Montverde, ranked No. 2 nationally in most polls, to a 71-64 victory over the Lions at the Metro Classic at Kean University's Harwood Arena in Union.
The 6-8 Dickerson scored 22 points and collected nine rebounds, and did the bulk of his damage during an 8:18 stretch during which the Eagles were without Simmons while he sat on the bench with four fouls. Dickerson scored 11 points during that span to help Montverde turn a 34-33 lead into a 55-51 advantage by the time the copiously talented Simmons returned with 5:17 left in the game.
Dickerson's play overshadowed that of two other SEC-bound stars from Roselle Catholic, 6-9 senior Chris Silva (South Carolina), who struck for a season-high 27 points and took down 13 rebounds, and the Kentucky-bound Briscoe, who had 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.
"We need that out of him every night," Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said of Silva, who was ferocious on the boards, steady defensively and consistent with the ball in his hands. His aggressiveness in the lane got him to the foul line often, where he made 15 of 18.
"If Chris brought that energy every single night, he'd be absolutely unstoppable," Boff said. "We had 17 offensive rebounds or something like that tonight against the biggest team probably in the country. And there's other games where we have three. There's just no excuse for that."
Boff said the same was true of the loss itself, despite Montverde's 27-1 record and status as the two-time reigning national champion under former St. Patrick head coach Kevin Boyle. His Lions should have taken advantage of Simmons' long departure and figured out a way to pull off the upset. The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Roselle Catholic (18-3), ranked No. 2 in the MSGVarsity Tri-State Top 20.
"No, it's not good enough for us anymore. That's not what we're striving for," Boff said. "Two years ago when Kevin brought his group up here (a 77-51 Montverde win), we were happy to be in the game, happy to play well, and that was great. At this point, it's about trying to win basketball games."
Simmons finished with 18 points (10 below his average) and 14 rebounds and showed glimpses of his abundant skill package as a ball handler, passer and athlete when flying to the rim with the basketball. Briscoe--a McDonald's All-American along with Simmons--also flashed moments of his typical brilliance as a playmaker and leader, though his perimeter shooting (1 of 9 from 3-point range) was not as effective as usual. He adjusted by driving to the basket and seeking out teammates and looking for transition opportunities off his defense.
Silva, though, was a hard-to-tame force in the paint for pretty much the entire game, and especially tough down the stretch as he tried to coax the Lions to the win. Silva dropped in 10 points and had five rebounds in that last quarter, including two dunks late in the game off assists by Briscoe.
Matt Bullock collected nine points and 10 rebounds, and has his final in both categories when he was fouled on a putback that pulled Roselle Catholic to within 55-54 with 3:56 left in the game. Bullock missed the free throw, and Montverde sank 5 of 6 over the next 1:24 for a 60-54 lead. Silva dunked with 2:23 to go to bring the Lions' to within 60-56, but Simmons hit two free throws with 1:52 remaining and Dickerson dunked off a feed by Simmons for a 64-56 lead with 1:32 to go.
"They made some good plays. They finished around the rim, which we didn't do," Boff said. "I think the difference in the game over those last three and a half minutes was when they got down near the basket, they converted and we didn't."
The Lions shot just 6 of 19 from the floor and 5 of 11 from the line in the fourth quarter. Montverde was 4 of 8 from the field and 13 of 18 from the line.
"We took some tough shots," Boff said. "We played the last couple minutes like we were down 10,instead of drown two or three. but sometimes those things happen."
Briscoe and Simmons offset each other with 18 points a piece, but Simmons also pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out five assists including a pretty pair of passes on back-to-back possessions in the second half.
WATCH BRISCOE'S FANTASTIC STEP BACK 3-POINTER
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Montverde Academy vs. Roselle Catholic
2/13/15, 8:32 PM
Metro Classic, Kean University
VISITORS: Montverde Academy
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