Montverde (Fla.) Academy appeared well on its way to the National High School Invitational title Saturday.
Someone forgot to inform Brandon Ashley and Findlay Prep.
The Pilots trailed by 18 points with 5:08 to play in regulation before Ashley powered a furious comeback, and the Pilots won their third NHSI title with an 86-83 overtime victory at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md.
Ashley, a 6-foot-9-inch senior who has signed with Arizona, scored a game-high 31 points. He hit two free throws with 20.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 76, capping a fourth quarter in which he scored 16 points, including 12 in the final 2:12.
"He put the cape on, and he did what we knew he could do and is supposed to do, to be honest," coach Michael Peck said. "That's what he's supposed to do."
In overtime, Nigel Williams-Goss made a floater in the lane with 15 seconds remaining to give Findlay Prep (32-1) an 84-83 lead, and Winston Shepard added two free throws with two seconds left for the final margin.
Montverde (23-4) had a final shot, but D'Angelo Russell's tying 3-point attempt from the left wing was short at the buzzer, and the trophy belonged to the Pilots.
Peck admittedly was stunned by his team's comeback.
"I don't know where to begin," he said. "I've probably got to watch it to make sense of it. Right now, it's like, 'Is that even possible mathematically?' "
Findlay Prep, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, previously won in 2009 and 2010. This year's NHSI field did not include top-ranked Oak Hill (Va.) Academy (44-0).
Findlay Prep, which trailed 65-47 three minutes into the fourth quarter, turned up the defensive pressure. The Pilots forced 10 fourth-quarter turnovers to help fuel the comeback.
"Our guys did a great job of getting tips and deflections and using our length," Peck said.
Montverde, which had four players foul out in the fourth quarter, had no answer for Ashley inside. He consistently bulled his way to the rim for a basket or a foul. He missed only one shot after halftime and finished 9 of 12 from the field. He hit 13 of 14 free throws.
"He just knew what he had to do," Peck said. "They didn't double (team), and he just went to work and kept it fairly simple."
Findlay Prep didn't miss a shot in overtime, going 3-for-3 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line.
Two free throws by senior Anthony Bennett with 1:26 to go in overtime gave the Pilots an 80-78 lead, their first since early in the first quarter.
A Bennett dunk put Findlay Prep ahead 82-80 with 1:15 left, but Russell, a sophomore who didn't play until late in the fourth quarter, hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Montverde an 83-82 advantage with 43 seconds to go.
Williams-Goss then split the top of Montverde's 2-3 zone and hit the teardrop in the lane to give the Pilots the lead for good.
Williams-Goss, a junior, had 17 points and shot 6-for-10 from the field. Bennett had 13 points, and Shepard and Dominic Artis each scored 10 for Findlay Prep.
Montverde junior Kasey Hill, who has committed to Florida, scored 23 points. He had nine points in the first four minutes of the game to help the Eagles jump out to a 14-4 lead.
"They were the aggressor out of the gate," Peck said. "They came out and punched us in the mouth, and we were kind of surprised and shell shocked and just kind of took it. It was like everybody was waiting for the other guy to do it, and nobody was doing it. But at some point the switch went on, and guys started doing it and got it done."
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587.