Coming into the Marshall County Hoopfest, Findlay Prep, the consensus No. 1 high school basketball team in the nation had already sprinted out to a perfect 8-0 record.
The Pilots were somewhat battle tested as the Thanksgiving Tournament of Champions in Peoria, Ill., proved to be a stiff challenge as they went 3-0 but had a slight scare (69-63 win) versus a solid Quality Education Academy (NC) squad.
The opening game of the Hoopfest for Findlay Prep was their biggest hurdle of the season, as standing in front of their repeat national title bid was No. 10-ranked Christ School (NC).
Christ School came into this matchup unblemished at 6-0 and had handled that same Quality Education Academy team fairly easily (16-point margin) that stayed within single digits of Findlay Prep. Many high school hoop insiders felt that this was the night that Findlay Prep may finally fall.
Someone forgot to pass the memo to Findlay Prep that tonight was supposed to be their first loss of the season, as they exchanged blows with the Christ School for the majority of the game before eventually pulling away for an impressive 80-64 victory.
Led by senior point guard Cory Joseph's 22 point, 8 rebound, 6 assist performance the Pilots were able to withstand a valiant charge made by the Greenies of North Carolina.
The first half was amazing back and forth action as everytime Findlay swished a jumper, the Greenies would come right back and answer with a bucket of their own.
Senior center Tristan Thompson (16 pts, 12 rebs) of Findlay would be forced to sit out the majority of the first half after being whistled for his second foul late in the first quarter.
From that point on it turned out to be a battle of the backcourts, as each team drained a flurry of jumpers against each other.
It seemed like Joseph and Christ School guard Tony Kimbro (22 points) each had the "anything you can do, I can do better" mentality, as each player refused to be upstaged by the other. After a frenetic pace the first half ended with Findlay clinging to a 38-35 lead.
Findlay Prep stormed out the gates at the start of the third quarter scoring the first 8 points, thus building their largest lead of the game. Guards Nick Johnson and Jabari Brown ignited the scoring run netting 17 points and 14 points respectively for the Pilots.
After the Pilots built a solid lead the closest the Greenies could get the rest of the way was a 5 point margin, but Johnson quickly extinguished the hopes of the Christ School by nailing two back breaking three pointers midway through the fourth quarter to all but seal the victory for Findlay Prep.
The Pilots finish their two-day stint in Kentucky tomorrow night against Our Savior New American (NY), a school that traditionally is a basketball powerhouse.
The Pilots will have to come out with the same focus as they did tonight if they are to land on the Vegas runway undefeated.