By ordinary standards, it was a good opening weekend for Napa’s Prolific Prep Crew as they defeated Elite Prep (Seattle) 109-93 on Saturday, followed by a solid 90-71 victory over ASI Prep Academy (Irvine) in Sunday afternoon action at Napa Valley College.
But Prolific Prep, with one All-American and several other players ready to make an immediate impact at universities around the country, is far from your ordinary high school team. Ranked No. 7 in one national poll and No. 13 in another, the Crew is held to a much higher standard by veteran head coach Billy McKnight.
“We’re making things way more difficult than they need to be,” observed McKnight after Sunday’s win.
“Our defense has to improve a lot,” he emphasized. “Fundamentally, we’re giving up too many threes and open shots.”
Both Elite and ASI were able to hang around longer than they had any right to with largely unguarded three-point bombs. The saving grace for Prolific was a dominant front line that denied its opponents easy inside shots or second looks.
“On the offensive side, we were better today at moving the ball and sharing the ball,” stated McKnight, but a lot of relatively easy shots around the basket set up by clever passing just refused to go in.
“Our guys were getting hit a little in there, but at this level, they’re going to get hit,” McKnight noted. “We’ll be going up against guys with big bodies and we have to play through that contact.”
Returning to his team’s defense, he went on to say, “Our defensive effort is really, really lacking. We’ve got a lot of new guys, so, the execution part of our game is simply not very good. It takes a little time to blend and gel, and the fact that we’re not even close to where we want to be is very evident to our coaches and players.”
Although much bigger and more talented than visiting ASI, Prolific had a hard time pulling away despite several good runs. At halftime, the host team led only 39-33 and its two star players, Jordan Brown and Amadou Sow, had only nine points apiece.
In the second half, ASI drew within one point at 56-55, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Prolific’s Brown drew his fourth foul shortly thereafter. But some strong finishing in the paint by Jeenathan Williams and Sow, along with useful contributions by Sekou Toure and Nimari Burnett carried the day for the Crew.
Prolific Prep was led by:
Amadou Sow: 22 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, two assists.
Jordan Brown: 21 points, 19 rebounds, five blocks, four assists.
Jeenathan Williams: 16 points, five rebounds, one block, two assists.
* Jared Martin: three points, five rebounds, five assists.
* Nimari Burnett: nine points, three rebounds, seven assists.
* Sekou Toure: 12 points, five rebounds, six assists.
* Alimamy Koroma: two points, one rebound, two blocks.
* Onyinyechi Eyisi: five points, one rebound.
While not being thrilled with what he saw from his team against Elite Prep on Saturday, McKnight was philosophical considering it was the first game of the year.
“It was a win but we had quite a few growing pains,” he observed. “I saw a lot of things that we’re going to need to work on, and you can’t really know what those things are until you play someone.
“We need to realize we can’t just take the court and automatically win. We have to play a lot harder and way smarter. We have a lot of talent on this team but that’s not enough.
“This game was like a slap in the face to our guys, and now we know we have to make some big changes and we have to make them quickly.”
Prolific led by as many as 22 in the second half, and managed to hang on for the win despite 37 points from Elite’s Nate Pryor, who is headed to the University of Washington next year. Jordan Brown led the home team with 28 points.
Prolific Prep was led by:
* Jordan Brown: 28 points, 19 rebounds, eight blocks, seven assists.
* Amadou Sow: 24 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks.
* Sekou Toure: 15 points, eight rebounds, six steals, five assists.
* Nimari Burnett: 15 points, five rebounds, five assists.
* Jeenathan Williams: 15 points, six rebounds, three steals.
* Onyinyechi Eyisi: 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks.
There’s a lot more top caliber high school basketball for area hoop fans coming up when the Crew hosts three more games at Napa Valley College: Friday, 7 p.m. vs. Las Vegas Prep; Saturday, 6 p.m., a rematch with Elite Prep (Seattle); Sunday, 2 p.m. vs. Handle It Prep (Georgia).