Friday, January 22, 2016
ACD Survives In Mid-Season Thriller
An opponent looked into Koch Bar's eyes but wouldn't receive a smile or a nod in return.
Bar, a 6-foot-9 Bradley-bound center at Arlington Country Day, was all business.
Personable and outgoing off the court, Bar wasn't here to make friends.
Beyond his ACD teammates, nobody on the court had his attention.
Not against West Oaks.
Not in a heated and heavily anticipated mid-season matchup, with bragging rights and pride at stake.
Playing against his former team, the same vaunted West Oaks program with which he won Sunshine Independent Athletic Association Championships, Bar wanted simply to win and win without distraction.
"It's tough to see your old teammates and play against them," explained Bar, who had several key baskets and provided rim protection down the stretch in ACD's wild 72-70 victory over West Oaks on Jan. 21.
"In the end of the day, it's a basketball game. We're competing all the way. I like the challenge. It's kind of personal, it's kind of just basketball and all of us wanting to win."
Nobody wanted to win more than cousins and formidable foes Luguentz Dort (ACD) and Richardson Maitre (West Oaks).
Both Canadian guards went at each other in an old fashioned battle, constantly one-upping each other while playing within the confines of the system.
Both players displayed a knack for scoring at all three levels, churning out big plays during a game in which every possession was amplified.
The plot changed when Dort, a well-built 6-foot-3 sophomore and high-major prospect, landed hard on a drive during the third quarter.
Dort, who sustained a shoulder injury, was on the floor for 10 minutes before leaving the game on a stretcher.
Of all the concerned faces, it was Maitre who looked the most worried about his cousin and now cross-state rival.
"Lu is one of our main players offensively, so it was tough for us to lose him in the game obviously," Bar said.
"Coach (Shaun Wiseman) just told us to play your game and play for him. Just play to win for him and we did that."
Maitre, who has blossomed into a high-major caliber recruit since de-committing from Cleveland State, finished with 20 points.
ACD seized a 45-38 lead with a furious 7-0 run, capped off by a Jayden Hodgson 3-pointer in the third quarter.
Hodgson, out of Australia, hit several loud shots.
The underrated Class of 2016 combo guard will prolong his career at Bradley alongside Bar.
West Oaks, buoyed by one of the best backcourt tandems in the country, clawed back with crafty baseline drives from 6-foot-2 guard Andres Feliz.
A South Florida-commit, Feliz was the star of last year's state championship game.
This time around, Bar was on the other side of the floor trying to fend off his fearless slashing.
Wiseman coached at West Oaks, grooming a torrent of talent.
He took the ACD job in July, taking Bar and since-departed 7-foot-3 Center Chol Mariel with him.
Mariel, a freakish freshman, is currently at Cheshire Academy.
The general belief was Maitre would transfer to ACD as well, but he opted to stay and play under Kenny Gillion.
The frenetic-paced game capped an emotional weekend for Arlington Country Day.
Legendary head coach Rex Morgan, who helped build ACD into a national and perennially potent program, died on Jan.15 following a valiant battle with throat cancer.
Morgan, who played for the Boston Celtics, helped make basketball a cherished pastime in Jacksonville.
One of the reasons Wiseman left Orlando and West Oaks for ACD was to keep Morgan's unparalleled legacy intact.
While the intriguing subplot was Wiseman and Bar v.s. their former team, it was the sizzling matchup between Maitre and Dortz that emerged as the headliner..
"They are cousins, but when they come to the floor they both want to win. You saw a good challenge against cousins. They're both tough. They both play so hard."
The teams are only scheduled to play this one time, albeit the plot twists (Wiseman leaving, taking Bar and Mariel with him) add juice to an ensuing chapter of this fierce Florida Prep rivalry.
"Oh yeah, this is going to be a big rivalry against them," Bar said.
"We played against Potter House in their court and lost on a buzzer beater. We were down by a lot and came back. But this game was just on a different level."