UNION, NJ — There is a reason why R.J. Barrett is the number one recruit in the nation, and why Montverde Academy is the country’s top-ranked team.
So, with Roselle Catholic seconds away from pulling off the biggest upset in high school basketball yet this season, Montverde displayed its poise and pedigree — with a little added luck — and Barrett showed all of New Jersey that his hype is real.
In a stunning sequence of events, the Duke-bound forward erupted for seven points in the final 24 seconds to singlehandedly pull undefeated Montverde (29-0) of Florida past Roselle Catholic, currently ranked 21st in the country, in the coveted Metro Classic at Kean University Friday night.
Up, 59-57, with under 10 seconds left, Roselle Catholic was simply playing keepaway to keep the clock running before being intentionally fouled. But the 6-foot-7 Barrett got his hands on a high Khalil Whitney pass, sprinted up court, flashed a deft drop step move and put up a fadeaway floater in the paint, and was fouled as his shot rolled in.
With Kean’s sold-out Harwood Arena about to fall apart at its seams, Barrett swished his foul shot to finish the three point “and-one” play and give Montverde, coached by New Jersey legend Kevin Boyle, the 60-59 lead it would need to win.
“We believe all the time, until the buzzer sounds,” Barrett told TAPinto.net. “I had a little guy on me and I knew he was going to try and reach in. I was going to dunk it, but I couldn’t,” he said with a smile of his and-one play.
Barrett finished with a game-high 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half, and Michael Devoe, a Georgia Tech commit, added 14 points to highlight Montverde’s annual visit to New Jersey. Sharpshooting Josh Pierre-Louis scored a team-high 17 points and Delaware commit Ithiel Horton chipped in 12 for Roselle Catholic, which is now 17-4 after Friday’s loss.
Before Barrett’s heroics, Roselle Catholic led for the entire fourth quarter and by as much as seven points after Naz Reid’s empathic dunk off a lob with 3:46 left, which is about when a possible upset appeared to have its greatest chance of happening.
After playing back and forth for the entire third quarter, the Lions grabbed a 34-33 advantage on a foul shot from Jason Battle and wouldn’t relent the lead until Barrett’s 11th hour magic.
Following Josh Pierre-Louis’ three point “and one” play with 1:19 remaining, Roselle Catholic owned a 42-40 lead entering the fourth. That lead soon grew into a multiple possession one, as Reed’s alley-oop dunk gave the Lions a 54-47 lead.
But Montverde — or Barrett, to be exact — mounted its rally quickly after LSU bound Reid’s slam. The Eagles closed out the game’s final 3:24 on an 11-5 run with Barrett accounting for all 11 points, nine of which came at the free throw line.
Montverde outscored Roselle Catholic, 20-17, in the final frame.
Despite his glamorous stat sheet and game-winning heroics, Barrett along with his Montverde team struggled against a very defensively strong Roselle Catholic. Barrett was limited to just one field goal in the first half, and Montverde struggled to separate itself against the same team it beat 63-51 last year.
“We didn’t come out aggressive,” Barrett said of his team’s earlier struggles, specifically in the first half, in which it only shot 45 percent from the field. “It was really whatever though; we showed what we can do in the second half.”
Ithiel Horton knotted the game up at 31 apiece 50 seconds out of halftime, but Barrett began his second half rampage with a monstrous coast to coast dunk to give his team a 33-31 lead. Both teams would exchange blows for a while, as there were a total of four lead changes and four ties during the second half.
After Montverde opened up the game on a 14-4 run, Roselle Catholic slowly but surely started to cut its deficit. The Lions claimed their first lead when Pierre-Louis went coast to coast and banked a layup with 1:10 left in the opening half, but Montverde claimed a 31-29 lead entering the locker room on a Devoe three-pointer 56 seconds away from halftime.
Montverde shot a stellar 87.5 percent (14-for-16) from the foul line and 42 (19-of-45) percent from the field. 19-of-45 Roselle Catholic shot 43 percent (20-of-46) from the field and 52 percent (10-for-19) on free throws.