Findlay Prep boys basketball coach Andy Johnson can relate to Nick Saban this time of year.
“It kind of reminds you of how a college football bowl is set up, where you have a month off between games,” Johnson said.
The Pilots, who haven’t played a game since Feb. 29, end their extended break when they participate this week in the eight-team National High School Invitational tournament in New York City.
Findlay Prep (28-1), ranked No. 6 in the latest USA Today Super 25 poll, takes on No. 13 Miller Grove of Lithonia, Georgia, in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. PDT Thursday at Christ the King High School. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
“We don’t put this event on our schedule. You have to earn playing in this event,” Johnson said. “And credit to our guys, they did an absolutely great job this year and played for one another and took care of business and put themselves in a position to have an opportunity to win a national championship hopefully.”
Johnson, in his second year as the Pilots’ head coach after spending five seasons as an assistant, learned from two of his predecessors how best to use the time off leading up to the tournament.
Findlay Prep has participated in the NHSI every year since its inception in 2009, winning the title three times.
“We’ve always kind of done it ever since Coach (Michael) Peck and Coach (Todd) Simon were here … where you give the guys the first week off and then you get back at it and have a little three-week boot camp, I guess you could call it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been going hard, had a few scrimmages in there to try to change things up. And hopefully it’ll all pay off.”
Findlay Prep is expected to have forward Donnie Tillman (knee) back for the game against Miller Grove, the Georgia AAAAA state champion. The Wolverines (30-2) are led by point guard Alterique Gilbert, a Connecticut recruit and the lone McDonald’s All-American in the NHSI field.
The Findlay Prep-Miller Grove winner meets either second-seeded Oak Hill Academy (Virginia) or No. 7 seed Wasatch Academy (Utah) in the semifinals on Friday. Montverde Academy (Florida), the three-time defending tournament champion and No. 2 team by USA Today, is the top seed.
Unlike years past, the winner of the NHSI probably won’t claim the mythical national championship. Undefeated Chino Hills (California), ineligible for the tournament because of state association rules, is No. 1 in every major poll.
“I think it’s the best field the tournament’s ever had,” Johnson said. “We’re very fortunate and lucky to still have an opportunity to go compete in such a great event and represent the state of Nevada at it.”
■ POLL POSITION — Centennial’s girls basketball team, which went 31-1 and won its second straight Division I state title in February, is No. 3 in the penultimate USA Today Super 25 poll.
The Bulldogs’ loss was to Riverdale Baptist (Maryland), which is No. 4 by USA Today but could move up after it participates this week in the girls NHSI tournament. Unbeaten Duncanville (Texas) is No. 1.
■ RECENT COMMITMENTS —Desert Oasis junior Gabriella Nevinger to Southern Oregon and Northwest Career and Technical Academy junior Alexis Cano to Texas-Dallas for women’s soccer.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ