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Unbeaten Findlay Prep in top form

NORTH BETHESDA, Md. — Findlay Prep easily cleared the first hurdle to a highly anticipated potential championship game showdown when it cruised past Mountain State Academy (W.Va.) 76-55 on Friday in a quarterfinal game of the National High School Invitational tournament at Georgetown Prep’s Hanley Center.

Junior forward Tristan Thompson led five Pilots in double figures with 20 points. Senior guard Avery Bradley scored 15, including eight in the first quarter. Senior center Carlos Lopez added 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Pilots (31-0) will face Montrose Christian of nearby Rockville, Md., an 88-45 winner over Friends’ Central of Wynnewood, Pa., in a semifinal game at 10 a.m. today (ESPN2, Channel 31).

No. 1-seeded Oak Hill Academy (39-0), located in Mouth of Wilson, Va., ranked one spot ahead of Findlay Prep in the ESPN Fab 50, routed Pinewood Prep of Summerville, S.C., 83-64 in its quarterfinal game.

Despite playing its first game in more than a month, the Pilots showed no rust in routing Mountain State (23-7). Using a smothering defense and controlling the boards by a 47-35 margin, they pulled away from the unranked Falcons early and eventually led by as many as 24 points.

The Pilots shot 52 percent from the field while holding Mountain State to 40 percent and forcing 15 turnovers.

“We’ve always said that’s kind of our staple,” Pilots coach Michael Peck said of his team’s defense. “It’s one thing for guys to be able to play defense, but they have a strong desire and want to play defense.”

The Findlay Prep guards disrupted Mountain State’s offensive sets all game, forcing long jump shots, and Lopez and Thompson kept the Falcons from getting many second-chance opportunities.

“Those guards we played against today are something else. Avery Bradley might be the quickest guard I’ve played against all year,” said Falcons junior guard Noah Cottrill, who led all scorers with 23 points. “They get right up on you. They’re very strong defensively.”

With the score tied at 6 three minutes in, the Pilots went on an 18-5 run over the remainder of the first quarter. Bradley, who this week won the slam-dunk contest at the McDonald’s All-American event in Miami, led the run with eight points, including two dunks that completed fast breaks.

“The one thing we tried to do is establish the inside because we thought we had an advantage with (senior center) Deniz (Kilicli),” Falcons coach Rob Fulford said. “But Deniz picked up two fouls in the first minute-and-a-half, and a lot of our sets are predicated on Deniz in the post.

“I think the kicker was that we didn’t do a very good job of stopping Findlay’s transition. They had a lot of mismatches — three-on-twos, two-on-ones.”

The Pilots led by 15 points at halftime and by 20 after three quarters.

Thompson, in his third game with the Pilots since transferring from St. Benedict’s in Newark, N.J., played 19 minutes off the bench. He hit 9 of 14 field-goal attempts and collected eight rebounds.

“We all live together, so once I got there, the chemistry started to build,” Thompson said. “We’re on a roll; we just have to continue it.”

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