Posted On: 04/4/19 4:25 PM

Montverde Academy and IMG Academy will meet Friday in an all-Florida semifinal at the 2019 GEICO Nationals, being played at Christ the King High in Middle Village, N.Y.

Defending national champion Montverde (22-2) took down Davie University School, 65-57, on Thursday to defeat the Sharks for the second consecutive year at GEICO. Montverde beat U-School, 76-58, in the championship game last March. Both of the Eagles’ losses this year came vs. La Lumiere School (Ind.).

IMG, out of Bradenton, ran its record to 28-1 with a 65-50 quarterfinal victory over Sunrise Christian, out of Kansas. IMG’s lone loss came against Mountain Brook (Ala.) at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers.

Seventh-seeded University School (27-5) — the two-time defending FHSAA Class 5A state champions — gave No 2-seed Montverde all it could handle for 3 1/2 quarters. Senior Vernon Carey Jr., junior Scottie Barnes and freshman Jett Howard came out on fire. The Sharks led 11-4 out of the gate and 17-13 at the end of one quarter.

It was not known prior to the game whether the 6-foot-10 Carey — a Duke signee — would be able to be effective. Carey missed U-School’s final four run at the Boys State Basketball Tournament in Lakeland with an ankle injury suffered vs. Westminster Christian in the regional final and had not played in a game since March 1.

However, Montverde got things rolling in the second quarter and took its first lead at 23-22 on a jumper off glass from unsigned big Precious Achiuwa. The Eagles ended the period on a 14-4 run to take a 31-26 advantage into halftime.

The second half went back and forth. University School took a 44-43 lead on a beautiful pass from Barnes to Jett Howard with 6:50 remaining in the game. After a Montverde miss, U-School had an opportunity to go up four, but the freshman Howard’s 3 was off the mark with 6:02 to go.

From that point on, it was all Montverde. Florida State 7-foot recruit Balsa Koprivica gave the Eagles the lead for good, 45-44, on two free throws with 5:47 remaining. Montverde would go on a 17-0 run to pull away.

Unsigned 6-4 senior Harlond Beverly led Montverde with 25 points, including 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Achiuwa added 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Carey posted a double-double in his final high school game. The McDonald’s All-American and back-to-back Florida Mr. Basketball finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. 

Carey did come out of the game for a stretch in the fourth quarter. On a drive to the basket with 4:38 to play, he kind of came down wrong on his left leg and appeared to be clutching at his knee.

Carey was taken out with 4:30 to go but did re-enter the contest at the 3:46 mark. He was suffering from cramping as well as playing on an ankle that is still not 100 percent, according to a text sent to me from USA Today’s Jason Jordan.

The 6-8 Barnes — a national top 5 prospect — had 12 points and 11 rebounds for University School.

University School’s five losses this season were all to national powers: Philly Imhotep Charter and IMG at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers; vs. Sierra Canyon (Calif.) at the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, Ore.; to Sunrise Christian (Kan.); and to Montverde.

Montverde is chasing its fifth national championship.

IMG, meanwhile, was led in scoring by junior guard Jaden Springer. Springer tossed in 26 points in the double-digit victory over Sunrise. Fellow 2020 guard Noah Farrakhan added 19 points.

Farrakhan, Koprivica, Carey and Barnes all played with Nike Team Florida in the past.

Elsewhere Thursday, No. 1-seed La Lumiere (29-0) had to go two overtimes to beat No. 8-seed Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, 74-69. Oak Hill Academy (Va.) defeated Wasatch Academy (Utah) 79-72 in the late quarterfinal.

The semifinals are Friday with the championship game Saturday afternoon.

If you have high school basketball news, you can reach Pat Lammer via text at 954-661-9671.