By: Jesse Nadelman- Staff Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Heading into Tuesday night’s top-10 showdown, Grandview Prep knew it would have its hands full in the paint facing Westminster Academy’s strong interior presence led by 6-10 forward Paul Atkinson.
It didn’t help the Pride’s cause when 6-7 forward Marcus Bentley was forced to miss the game with an ankle injury, and 6-6 forward Chance Donovan picked up his third foul in the second quarter.
Atkinson took advantage of that height edge, feasting on Grandview for 27 points to led No. 3 Westminster to a 76-62 win over No. 8 Grandview Prep on Tuesday night.
“I think we’ve got some of the best bigs in the county,” Westminster Academy head coach Ehren Wallhoff said. “As we made adjustments, our size prevailed. They didn’t get second chance shots, and we did a good job of owning the boards.”
Atkinson – who is signed to play at Yale – had 19 points at half and also added 13 rebounds and five blocks.
The Lions (22-3) led by 11 at half but opened the third quarter on a 17-0 run after buckets by Zach Scott, Atkinson, and Chase Johnston to stretch the lead all the way up to 59-31 with 2:24 left in the third quarter.
Westminster would eventually lead by 25 heading into the fourth, where it would finish off the win.
“We challenged our guys a little bit to really step it up defensively [in the second half],” Wallhoff said. “I think that changed the game. We held them to one shot in the first nine possessions of the first half.”
Grandview Prep (20-2) never led.
Johnston – the 6-3 sophomore guard – poured in three threes to finish with 16 points for the Lions, while the 6-3 junior point guard Scott had 14 points and seven assists.
Westminster, which jumped out to a 7-0 lead before leading 18-13 after one, now has four wins over current R.M.F. top-25 teams in what has been one of the most rigorous schedule’s in Florida.
“I think playing the schedule we’ve played helped us,” Wallhoff said. “Our guys are used to playing with a lot of adversity and dealing with it. The schedule has helped us, but we put a lot of pride on our guys to be a little bit tougher and step up on defense.”
Senior 6-4 senior guard Matthew Schner led the way with 30 points for the Pride, which suffers its first loss in Florida after having previously only lost to New York powerhouse Long Island Lutheran.
Senior point guard Roy Jones III added 15 points for Grandview, while senior 6-9 forward Jason Strong contributed 12 points and 19 boards for Westminster.
R.M.F. Player of the Game
6-10 senior forward Paul Atkinson continued his push for Player of the Year on Tuesday night.
The Yale signee was a monster inside all night long, wrecking havoc for 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Atkinson and 19 points at the break, and played sparingly in the second half, still managing to dominate the game and earn honors as the R.M.F Player of the Game.
“I knew coming in they would be a smaller team,” Atkinson said. “They were a good team, and I just had to attack as hard as I could and finish strong.”
Grandview Prep: The Pride suffered their first loss since since December 28th, albeit just its second of the season. Grandview has just two more games left (Oxbridge, Coral Springs Charter) until districts and eventually regionals where it will gear up for the matchup that everyone sees coming with No. 1 Miami Christian in the regional finals.
They should get Bentley back soon, but either way the Pride will need to improve on the interior if they hope to knock off Miami Christian and head to Lakeland for a shot at a second straight state title.
Westminster Academy: The Lions are red-hot at the right time. They, too, haven’t lost since back on December 28th against LaSalle (OH). With the talented group the Lions have, and led by a great head coach in Wallhoff, anything short of a 4A state title would be a disappointment for this group.
The one team that could potentially step in their way before Lakeland is No. 15 Sagemont, which could potentially meet Westminster in the regional finals.
Grandview Prep will look to bounce back on the road against No. 21 Oxbridge Academy this Thursday.
Westminster Academy will gear up for a top-five showdown with No. 4 Calvary Christian on Saturday night at home.
ABOUT THE REPORTER
Jesse Nadelman is a 17-year old reporter for R.M.F. Magazine who currently is a senior at North Broward Prep. Growing up in South Florida, Jesse has grown an intense passion for sports media. He covers all of South Florida’s top high school basketball teams and events for R.M.F. In addition to contributing to R.M.F, Jesse also writes for FloridaHSFootball.com, covering South Florida High School Football, and contributes to a variety of other outlets.
You could follow Jesse on twitter: @Jessenadelman