Findlay Prep caps tumultuous season with national title

Amid the celebration and interview requests engulfing his team, coach Michael Peck wasn’t able to have a lengthy locker-room talk with his Findlay Prep basketball players about what they had just accomplished Saturday.

He didn’t need words, however, to understand how much a repeat championship at the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational meant to them.

“The hugs and tears speak for itself,” Peck said.

Cory Joseph scored 17 points to lead Findlay Prep to a 59-46 win over Montverde (Fla.) Academy in the tournament final at Coppin State in Baltimore.

The victory capped a season for the Pilots (32-2) that was more turbulent than last season’s 33-0 campaign.

Findlay Prep overcame two upset losses, the midseason departure of star guard Jabari Brown and the uncertainty over where it will call home next season on its journey to the tournament crown.

“It feels great. I’m happy for our guys,” Peck said by phone. “They went through a long year, and they earned it.”

Joseph was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which is in its second year. The senior guard shot 6-for-10 from the field and added four rebounds and three steals. He totaled 49 points in the final two tournament games.

Joseph, who is considering scholarship offers from Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, UNLV and Villanova, shared all-tournament honors with teammate and fellow Ontario native Tristan Thompson.

Thompson, a senior forward who has signed with Texas, had 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Pilots junior guard Nick Johnson added 13 points.

The top-seeded Eagles (23-5) rallied from a 16-5 deficit to eventually take a 37-36 lead late in the third quarter. But the No. 2 seed Pilots responded with a 13-0 run to regain control.

Findlay Prep avenged a 54-51 loss at Montverde on Jan. 30.

“I told our guys, ‘This is one of the two teams that beat us, and you should hate losing more than you love winning,’ ” Peck said.

A repeat title for the Pilots atop national media polls appears unlikely because Houston-based Yates (34-0) wasn’t allowed by its state association to play in another postseason event following the Texas state tournament.

Yates is ranked No. 1 by USA Today and, with Findlay Prep at Nos. 2 and 6.

Now the Pilots can turn their full attention to where they will play next season.

Findlay Prep players attend classes, practiced and played home games at Henderson International, which announced Feb. 26 it wouldn’t operate its high school campus after this school year.

“We’ve got to start on that right away,” Peck said of finding a new home.

Peck said Tuesday there is a possibility the program could stay put if a buyer steps up to fund Henderson International. If the Pilots must move, however, he said, “It would definitely be in the Las Vegas area.”

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