Findlay Prep motors into national tournament final

It's not often a high school basketball team that wins by 13 points feels it could have finished the game stronger.

Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck hopes to see that from his team today, when the Pilots will play for their third ESPNHS National High School Invitational title in the past four years.

Top-seeded Findlay Prep saw a 17-point lead cut to eight in the final minutes, but held on for a 68-55 victory over fourth-seeded St. Benedict's (N.J.) in the semifinals of the NHSI at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md., on Friday.

"The end was a little disappointing, to be honest, how we handled their pressure," Peck said. "I thought we could have put our foot on their neck and put it away, but we turned it over and gave it back to them and made it interesting.

"It didn't end the way it should have, but nonetheless, a win's a win, and we punched our ticket."

The Pilots (31-1) advanced to meet third-seeded Montverde (Fla.) Academy (23-3) for the title at 11 a.m. today. The game will be televised on ESPN (Cox 30).

Findlay Prep won the event's first two titles before suffering an upset loss in the quarterfinals last year.

On Friday, Melvin Johnson made a 3-pointer from the right wing to get St. Benedict's (34-3) within 63-55 with 1:03 remaining. But the Pilots closed with a 5-0 run highlighted by a Winston Shepard dunk in transition.

Shepard, a senior forward who has committed to San Diego State, led the Pilots with 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting, along with seven rebounds and three steals.

Shepard also played excellent defense most of the game on Johnson, a senior who has committed to Miami. Johnson hit only one of his first seven shots and finished 5-for-16 on his way to 15 points.

Findlay Prep outscored St. Benedict's 13-4 in the second quarter to build a 28-17 halftime lead.

Pilots point guard Dominic Artis, an Oregon signee, made 10 of 12 free throws in his way to 12 points. McDonald's All-American forwards Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley each came off the bench to score 11 points.

"Everybody was healthy for us, and we're playing with a full deck, so to speak," Peck said. "We kind of have a (starting) lineup established. We want to kind of ease them back into it."

Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe scored 17 points to lead St. Benedict's.