Defense, Joseph lift Findlay Prep into national final

Findlay Prep basketball coach Michael Peck doesn’t worry much about his team’s ability to score.

He has stressed that defense, above all, would give the Pilots a chance to repeat as champions in the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational.

On Friday, second-seeded Findlay Prep rode that philosophy and 32 points by senior guard Cory Joseph into the tournament final.

Findlay Prep held Mountain State Academy (W.Va.) to nine points in the second and third quarters on the way to a 68-53 semifinal victory at Coppin State in Baltimore.

“Our perimeter defense is doing the job and then some,” Peck said by phone. “We emphasize that to our guys.”

Second-seeded Findlay Prep (31-2) will meet No. 1 seed Montverde (Fla.) Academy (23-4) in the final at 10:30 a.m. today. ESPN will televise the game.

The Pilots will try today to avenge a 54-51 loss to Montverde Academy on Jan. 30 at the Eagles’ tournament.

“You don’t get a lot of chances to play a team that beat you again,” Peck said. “I know our guys are excited to play them.”

Findlay Prep limited Mountain State (22-4) to 2-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers and 40.4 percent overall (21-for-52). The Pilots forced 15 turnovers, converting them into 20 points.

Peck said his team’s defensive effort has impressed him the most in the first two games of the tournament. Findlay Prep cruised past Charlotte (N.C.) Christian 65-50 in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

“We have spells defensively where we’re really good,” he said. “We’ve got to be consistent there.”

Playing all 32 minutes, Joseph shot 11-for-23 from the floor and 7-for-7 on free throws. He added five rebounds and two steals. Joseph, who won the McDonald’s All American 3-point contest Monday, shot 3-for-7 from beyond the arc.

“I was hoping we wouldn’t need that,” Peck said of Joseph’s 32 points. “We needed that. He’s done that before.”

Joseph remains uncommitted to a college. He is considering scholarship offers from Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, UNLV and Villanova and has made official recruiting visits to all five.

Nick Johnson supplied 11 points and five steals for Findlay Prep. Tristan Thompson added nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks, and Marko Petrovic scored nine.

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