Final, Expanded 2016-17 FAB 50 Rankings
Ronnie FloresRonnie has evaluated basketball talent for 20 years and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports, ESPN and Ballislife. Ronnie compiles the FAB 50 National Team Rankings while serving as an account manager and consultant for grassroots event run by Ballislife and other companies, in addition to serving as a color commentator on high school broadcasts.
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All 50 ranked teams written up with explanations for why they were placed in these positions with comparisons to preseason ranking. The FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com is the official rankings of the National Sports News Service, which date back to the 1952 season. Nathan Hale of Seattle is the 2016-17 mythical national champion, the first ever from Washington. The Raiders are the second consecutive public school to finish No. 1 and the third this decade.
Compiled by Ronnie Flores
Note: Preseason ranking in parenthesis; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates default wins/losses not included.
1. (38) Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.) 29-0
The Raiders are the first team ever from the state of Washington to finish No. 1 in the FAB 50 and no other team from the Apple State going back to the beginning of the National Sports News Service rankings in 1952 has ever won the mythical national title. The highest ranked Washington team prior was Rainier Beach of Seattle in 2013-14 when it finished No. 6. That team’s only loss came in its Dick’s Nationals opener and the decision by Hale not to participate in the event certainly was a point of contention in the final analysis. The decision to keep Hale in its No. 1 position over Dick’s National’s champ and No. 2 La Lumiere came down to what we always focus on: game results while doing our best to minimize other factors, which over time, gives up the best chance to remain accurate in our analysis. Missouri-bound Michael Porter made good on his promise that the Raiders were too low in the preseason, as they defeated preseason No. 1 Oak Hill Academy, No. 21 Sierra Canyon as well as Metro League rival Garfield four times during the season behind his 36.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. Younger brother Jontay Porter joined him on the all-state team with averages of 12.7 ppg and 12.1 rpg.
2. (2) La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) 28-1
The Lakers finish in the same rankings position they started out in the preseason with after the decision was made not to flip-flop them with Hale after La Lumiere won Dick’s Nationals for the first time. Hale elevated to No. 1 after the Hoophall Classic and was in that position because of its earlier win over No. 21 Sierra Canyon, the team that handed the Lakers their only setback on MLK Monday. One of the main reasons the common opponent factor was so significant in this case was it was against an opponent in the No. 1 conversation and was ultimately the two results that led to Hale’s ascension to No. 1 in front of La Lumiere’s preseason positioning. Hale was not a consensus choice among the polls deemed credible, as La Lumiere enjoyed an outstanding season behind the play of McDonald’s All-Americans Brian Bowen (20.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Jaren Jackson (16.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 6.0 bbg). In addition to defeating No. 5 Montverde Academy for the Dick’s title, the Lakers also defeated No. 10 Findlay Prep twice (including a Dick’s semifinal victory) and a Hamilton Heights Christian Academy team that bested No. 3 Memphis East.
3. (12) Memphis East (Memphis, Tenn.) 33-3
It was quite interesting to see the Mustangs in New York even though the TSSAA rejected their waiver request to participate in Dick’s Nationals. Penny Hardaway’s program became the first since White Station of Memphis in 2003-04 to win consecutive state titles in the highest classification after downing Southwind of Memphis, 65-45, to win the Class AAA crown. Sophomore Chandler Lawson went for 18 points and 15 rebounds in the state title game with three teammates going for double figures. Those four players – Lawson, Class AAA Mr. Basketball Alex Lomax (14), T.J. Moss (11) and Malcolm Dandridge (11) all received all-tourney honors and return next year with hopes of another state crown and possible Dick’s invite. Memphis East lost to No. 21 Sierra Canyon, but also beat No. 5 Montverde Academy two of three outings and No. 9 Patrick School to advance to the City of Palms Tournament title game. The underclass-dominant team also downed No. 28 Greenforest Christian Academy.
4. (20) Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) 31-1*
The Panthers had one on-court loss to eventual PIAA Class AAA state champ Neumann-Goretti in its second game (the team had to forfeit a game versus cross-town Constitution for an altercation) and were downright dominant in its own playoff bracket. Coach Andre Noble’s team ran roughshod through the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs with a winning margin over 29 points, including a 80-52 triumph over Strong Vincent of Erie in the title game. Rhode Island-bound guard Daron Russell led the way all season long and had 25 points and 6 steals in the state title game. South Carolina-bound David Beatty was a defensive standout and teamed with Russell to give Imhotep Charter one of the nation’s best backcourts. The big win during its 30-game winning streak to close the season with a 57-48 win over No. 5 Montverde Academy that snapped the program’s 55-game home winning streak. The Panthers did a bit better than we expected in the preseason, but on the other hand we were the only ones to have them on the national radar to begin the season and they will be strong once again in 2017-18.
5. (5) Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 26-5
The Eagles were just what we expected in the preseason — one of the nation’s top teams playing one of its most difficult schedules. During its regular season, coach Kevin Boyle’s club defeated No. 17 Tift County, No. 8 IMG Academy and won the City of Palms Tournament over No. 3 Memphis East. Montverde Academy also lost to Memphis East twice at the final buzzer. Led by sophomore R.J. Barrett and seniors Rechon “Leaky” Black (North Carolina) and Marcus Carr (Pittsburgh), the Eagles also defeated No. 6 Bishop Montgomery before advancing to the Dick’s Nationals title game where it fell to No. 2 La Lumiere. The Eagles had the most total losses of any team in the top 10, but also defeated 11 FAB 50 ranked teams.
6. (7) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) 31-2
After Montverde Academy defeated the Knights at the Hoophall Classic, it seemed their preseason position as California’s No. 1 was going to be one of our weaker predictions. Bishop Montgomery lost to unranked Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) to open the season when junior guard Davy Singleton and senior forward Jordan Schakel (San Diego St.) were nursing injuries. By the post-season, however, coach Doug Mitchell’s team hit its stride and defeated No. 21 Sierra Canyon (the team some pegged as national No. 1), No. 12 Mater Dei (twice), No. 19 Chino and No. 47 Woodcreek on its way to the CIF Open Division state title. The ringleader all season long was California Mr. Basketball Ethan Thompson (22.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg), as the O’Dowd loss allowed Mitchell and his team the ability to focus on peaking at the end of the season, which was an underlying issue in recent seasons.
7. (BB) Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.) 32-0
This is the first team in our rankings we wished would have looked harder and found room for in the preseason FAB 50. Coach Wes Swift’s club completed an unbeaten season with a 74-57 victory over El Dorado to win the state Class 6A state crown. Jonathan Adams and Tony Hutson each netted 15 points in a game that was keyed by a 16-0 second half run. Junior Desi Sills and Marquis Eaton were the ringleaders of a deep and balanced team that defeated regionally-ranked Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.), a team that lost to No. 22 Webster Groves by a point, and No. 34 Vashon. The highest-rated team from Arkansas in the FAB 50/National Prep Poll era is Parkview of Littlerock at No. 4 in 1991-92.
8. (16) IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) 26-2
Coach Vince Walden’s club had one of the nation’s best regular seasons, losing only to No. 5 Montverde Academy in the City of Palms semifinals, 70-66. With its ultra-talented roster led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Trevon Duval (16.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.0 apg), the Ascenders defeated No. 26 Norcross, No. 9 Patrick School twice and No. 28 Greenforest Christian Academy before earning the No. 2 seed at Dick’s Nationals. Perhaps it was the month and a half layoff or Duval’s participation the night before in the McDonald’s All-American Game, but IMG only made 15-of-42 field goals (36 percent) and 6-of-16 free throws (38 percent) in a loss 59-40 loss to No. 13 Greensboro Day that ultimately costs this team two spots from its previous ranking.
9. (3) Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 29-4
The Celtics had a successful season which culminated in winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions over No. 38 Don Bosco Prep, 69-55. It was the first NJSIAA crown for the program since the Newark Archdiocese closed the school in 2012 and it re-opened independent of the church. This deep and talented club got 17 points and five assists from point guard Jordan Walker and reserves Vladir Manuel and Al-Amir Dawes combined for 21 points in the win. Don Bosco defeated No. 42 Linden (a team Patrick School split games with to avenge its only in-state loss) in the semifinals. The Celtics also lost to No. 3 Memphis East and twice to No. 8 IMG Academy. State Player of the Year Nick Richards (12.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) epitomized this team’s makeup with his size (6-foot-11), toughness and unselfish attitude.
10. (29) Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 33-4
Coach Paul Washington chided us about his team’s preseason ranking, and at the end of the day, he was correct. We knew the Pilots had talent, but wanted to take a wait-and-see approach being on their fifth head coach in six years and Washington played and aggressive schedule and had some key wins. The Pilots throttled No. 11 Oak Hill Academy in the title game of the Iolani Classic (78-62) in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates and also defeated regionally ranked First Love Academy of Pennsylvania and cross-town and rival Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. Led by Kentucky-bound P.J. Washington (the coach’s son who averaged 20 ppg and 10 rpg) and forward Lamine Diane, the Pilots beat Oak Hill Academy for the second time in the opening round of Dick’s Nationals behind 22 points and five blocks from Washington and 21 points from Diane before falling to No. 2 La Lumiere by two points (54-52) in the semifinals.
11. (1) Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 38-5
This team started out as preseason No. 1 because of its talent level and defeating La Lumiere in last year’s Dick’s Nationals final, but the season didn’t end as planned for veteran coach Steve Smith (1,064-70). With FAB 50 title aspirations, the Warriors lost in the first round of Dick’s Nationals to No. 10 Findlay Prep to fall to 11-7 all-time at the event. Oak Hill also lost to the Pilots during the regular season, to a team not eligible for the FAB 50, to No. 21 Sierra Canyon and to No. 1 Hale. With McDonald’s All-American Billy Preston (Kansas), Gatorade State Player of the Year Matt Coleman (Texas) and underrated Lindell Wigginton (Iowa St.) leading the way, the Warriors big win of the regular season was snapping the 60-game winning streak of No. 19 Chino Hills. Smith’s club also defeated No. 33 Blue Ridge.
12. (24) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 33-3
It was a successful season for an underclass-dominated team that advanced to both the CIF Southern Section Open Division final and the SoCal Open regional final. Coach Gary McKnight’s club lost both those games to No. 6 Bishop Montgomery and was done in by second half runs in each. Its best win turned out to be its 83-80 overtime win over No. 19 Chino Hills in a much-anticipated CIFSS semifinal contest at the Galen Center before 10, 258 fans. Mater Dei split games with the defending FAB 50 champions, winning with Bol Bol in the lineup and losing without him in the title game of the Tarkanian Classic. Bol returns as do all-section point guard Spencer Freedman, wing Harrison Butler and forward Michael Wang.
13. (22) Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 34-4
The Bengals were hovering right around their preseason positioning heading into Dick’s Nationals, and moved up seven spots after the event following their big 59-40 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 IMG Academy. Temple-bound forward J.P. Moorman led the way with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals for a motivated squad which had six players on the roster who participated and lost in the first round of Dick’s Nationals in 2015. Under veteran coach Freddie Johnson (992-283), this program won 30 or more games for the 14th time, including three wins over No. 41 Wesleyan Christian Academy, the final one coming in the NCISA Class 3A state title game.
14. (BB) Brentwood Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) 30-2
The Eagles naturally fall right behind Greensboro Day since one of their losses was to Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.), which defeated Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) three times by a combined total of five points. Greensboro Day defeated Wheeler, 56-36, defeated the IMG Academy club Pebblebrook lost to, while Brentwood’s second loss was to a club that also defeated the Bengals – Hamilton Heights Christian Academy of Tennessee. On than those two games, Brentwood Academy was spectacular in closing out the season with 19 consecutive victories, including a 74-42 waxing of McCallie in the TSSAA Division II-AA state title game. The ringleader for this club was junior point guard Darius Garland, who averaged over 23 ppg and is receiving some All-American acclaim.
15. (10) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 32-5
The Eagles lost their opener to a talented Simeon team on the road in Chicago and fell to No. 21 Sierra Canyon in the Les Schwab Invitational. Other than those two, coach Steve Turner’s club beat everyone else on its tough schedule at least once, splitting WCAC games with Paul VI, St. John’s and DeMatha Catholic. Led by All-Met Player of the Year and Miami-bound Chris Lykes (18.6 ppg, double figures in all but one), Gonzaga defeated No. 23 Jefferson and regionally-ranked Dillard (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and Garfield (Seattle, Wash.). It also closed out strong, winning the WCAC crown in addition to the DCSAA and Alhambra Catholic crowns.
16. (NR) Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.) 27-1
Coach Mike Bibby’s club won the AIA Class 4A state title in dominant fashion, defeating Salpointe Catholic of Tucson, 81-48, in the state title game. In four playoff games, that was the closest margin of victory. Shadow Mountain entered Dick’s Nationals with an unblemished record and hung with No. 5 Montverde Academy for three quarters before the Eagles pulled away to win 74-61. The loss cost the Matadors three spots in the final rankings, as they played Montverde comparably to other ranked clubs and competed without sophomore Jaelen House in that game. Shadow Mountain was led by House, fellow tenth-grader Jovan Blacksher and 4A Player of the Year Marcus Shaver, who averaged 22.4 ppg, shot 52 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free throw line.
17. (NR) Tift County (Tifton, Ga.) 29-2
There were four GHSA Class AAAAAAA programs to earn a preseason FAB 50 ranking, but when the dust settled the Blue Devils emerged as Georgia’s highest ranked team. Tift County defeated regionally ranked Newton of Covington (a team that was FAB 50 ranked during the season), 75-66, in the quarterfinals, No. 43 McEachern, 56-49, in the semifinals and No. 26 Norcross, 55-52, in the state title game. Senior Micah Johnson, a member of Tift County’s 2014 state championship team, canned 16-of-18 free throws and scored 24 points versus Norcross while the team made 24-of-26 from the charity stripe. Similar to No. 16 Shadow Mountain, Tift County (which handed McEachern its only loss) fell to No. 5 Montverde Academy, but was not chosen for Dick’s Nationals. The Blue Devils split games with Lowndes of Valdosta.
18. (NR) Cypress Falls (Houston, Texas) 35-3
Similar to the GHSA Class 7A title, the UIL Class 6A title is highly coveted and an absolute gauntlet to survive. The Eagles emerged with the state crown courtesy of their 63-57 win over regionally-ranked Wagner of San Antonio. Trajan Wesley (20 points) and Nigel Hawkins (18 points and four steals) led the way for a program that has been a consistent contender but couldn’t get out of the regionals before this season. In the state semis, the Eagles outlasted No. 24 Skyline, 46-43, in three overtimes as Wesley scored 23 points and Skyline misses some critical free throws down the stretch. Cy Falls, which closed its season with 25 consecutive wins, may have been unheralded in the preseason but won’t be in 2017-18 with Wesley, Hawkins and the other three starters all returning.
19. (14) Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) 30-3
The Huskies were about as good as we projected in the preseason – one of the nation’s most explosive teams, but not quite as good without 2016 Mr. Basketball USA Lonzo Ball in the lineup. Last season, Chino Hills went 35-0 and this team carried the winning streak to 60 games before falling to No. 11 Oak Hill Academy, 95-91, at the Nike Extravaganza. The Huskies went over 100 points 17 times (one short of the state record it tied the season before), but labored a bit down the stretch in part due to an ankle injury to leading scorer Gelo Ball (Lonzo’s younger brother). Chino Hills saw its season end in a 87-80 loss to No. 6 Bishop Montgomery in the SoCal Open Division semifinals and its other loss was a 83-80 setback in overtime to No. 12 Mater Dei, a team it split games with. Coach Stephan Gillings’ team also defeated NorCal Open champ and No. 47 Woodcreek (108-93).
20. (33) Clarkston (Clarkston, Mich.) 27-1
The Wolves fell to Southfield A & T in league play, but other than that lived up to their preseason acclaim to win an elusive MHSAA Class A state crown. After losing in double overtime in last year’s regional semifinals in heartbreaking fashion to Macomb Dakota, Clarkston defeated that club (68-48) in the same round and downed previously unbeaten and No. 40 Grand Rapids Christian, 75-69, in the state title game. The Wolves were in control throughout the state title game, as junior Foster Loyer netted 29 points to help seal the first state title for veteran coach Dan Fife. Loyer, the Michigan Player of the Year, averaged over 25 points while running together a string of 199 consecutive made free throws.
21. (9) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) 27-3
The Trailblazers are easily one of the hardest teams to rank in the FAB 50, as their season fell short of expectations for the second consecutive season. On paper, they had one of the most talented rosters in the country led by junior big man Marvin Bagley III (24.6 ppg) and did put together arguably the strongest regular season of any FAB 50 ranked team. We had to balance Sierra Canyon’s loss to regionally-ranked St. Augustine in the CIF SoCal Open regional playoffs (which caused it to fall out of the FAB 50 for a week) with its wins over No. 2 La Lumiere, No. 3 Memphis East, No. 10 Findlay Prep, No. 11 Oak Hill Academy and No. 15 Gonzaga. The Trailblazers fell to No. 6 Bishop Montgomery in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals and to No. 1 Hale by two points in a result that had a huge impact on the race for No. 1 despite Sierra Canyon’s own post-season stumble.
22. (45) Webster Groves (Webster Groves, Mo.) 29-2
The Statesmen got off to a slow started, but were dominant down the stretch, wining the Missouri Class 5A state crown with a 70-35 rout of Lee’s Summit West. Courtney Ramey, a junior guard committed to Louisville, scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds while Carte’Are Gordon, a junior St. Louis commit, scored 21 points while not missing a field goal inside. The big win was a 57-56 semifinal win over Kickapoo of Springfield, as Gordon blocked a shot attempt after dropping a clutch free throw in the closing seconds. Ramey scored 17 second-half points and 25 versus a team that was last year’s state runner-up and one we strongly considered for the preseason FAB 50 right behind Webster Groves. The Statesmen’s big win during the regular season was a 60-59 win over No. 34 Vashon.
23. (36) Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) 27-1
At first it may seem the Democrats are a bit too high, considering their sole loss was to No. 15 Gonzaga by a 91-70 margin. Upon closer inspection, however, it would be interesting to see how that result would have played out had standout junior Kamaka Hepa suited up. Jeff was a well-balanced club and defeated Clackamas, 70-67, in the Class 6A title game, as Geno West scored 28 points while Thomas Miles added 20. Hepa (who missed the Gonzaga game with an injured ankle) was a first team all-state selection along with West, who scored 28 points in the loss to Gonzaga. Jefferson has won nine state titles, but this was its first at the Class 6A level.
24. (NR) Skyline (Dallas, Texas) 34-2
The Raiders had an excellent season, but came up just a bit short in its quest for a UIL Class 6A state title. Skyline’s only regular season setback was a 60-56 overtime loss to Richardson, a team it beat in the second round of district play, 70-58. Skyline saw its season come to an end in heart-breaking fashion as Marcus Garrett missed two free throws and a put back after his grabbed the second in a 46-43 triple OT loss to eventual state champ and No. 18 Cy Falls. Despite the loss, it’s hard to deny the fantastic season the Kansas-bound Garrett put together, as the Gatorade State Player of the year had 12 triple doubles while averaging 17.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 9.1 apg, 3.1 spg and 2.9 bpg.
25. (NR) Trinity Episcopal (Richmond, Va.) 35-1
This was among the nation’s most underappreciated teams during the regular season, but showed its strength when it downed No. 1 seed Paul VI of Fairfax, 95-78, to win the VISAA D1 state crown. In the semifinals, the Titans (which only lost to regionally-ranked Bird of Chesterfield) downed another WCAC club, Bishop O’Connell of Arlington, 71-50, as Trinity easily dispatched two clubs that owned wins over other FAB 50 ranked teams. James Madison-bound Senior Zach Jacobs, the Virginia Prep League MVP, led the way with 38 points in the state title game and averaged 21 points on the season. The Titans won their first state title since 1996 (when current coach Rick Hamlin was the point guard) and won the Times-Dispatch Invitational, the Sleepy Thompson Tournament, the Dale Davis Invitational and the Henrico Holiday Hoops Tourney along the way.
26. (41) Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 26-6
As was predicted for them in the preseason, the Blue Devils enjoyed a successful season that came up just one game short of the ultimate goal. Coach Jesse McMillan’s club fell to No. 17 Tift County in the GHSA Class AAAAAAA state title game, 55-52, after making a furious comeback even though star Rayshaun Hammonds fouled out 3:42 remaining. Dalvin White led the way with 15 points. The big win came when Norcross avenged an earlier loss to Pebblebrook of Mableton with a 82-60 win in the state quarterfinals. Norcross also defeated No. 28 Greenforest Christian Academy (57-46) and No. 29 Mae Jemison (69-63) while only losing to No. 8 IMG Academy by three points (62-59).
27. (NR) Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) 29-3
The Vikings proved their regular season win over highly-regarded and regionally-ranked Neumann-Goretti of Philadelphia was no fluke, beating the Saints in the Philly Catholic League final, 65-58, behind a big second half from guard Collin Gillespie, who scored 16 of his 24 points in the fourth period. Archbishop Wood also defeated regionally-ranked Roselle Catholic of New Jersey (which like Goretti spent a good portion of the season FAB 50 ranked) and rolled to the PIAA AAAAA state title with a 73-40 win over Meadville. It was the first Catholic League and state crown for the Vikings’ program and the Villanova-bound Gillespie had plenty to do with the success. The Catholic League and Philadelphia Daily News Player of the Year averaged 24.1 ppg.
28. (6) Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Ga.) 27-5
The Eagles were not quite as good as forecasted in the preseason, but the end result was the same as coach Larry Thompson’s program rolled to the GHSA Private A state crown. Senior Justin Forrest led the way in the 81-57 state title game win over Southwest Atlanta Christian with 36 points. Both Forrest (the son of former Georgia Tech standout James Forrest) and center Ikey Obiagu were first team all-state selections. Similar to No. 27 Archbishop Wood, GCA also beat Roselle Catholic of New Jersey and beat the Kickapoo club (56-52) that No. 22 Webster Groves defeated by a point. All five of the teams GCA lost to were at one point ranked in the FAB 50.
29. (44) Mae Jemison (Huntsville, Ala.) 33-4
It makes sense for the Jaguars to fall in line right behind No. 28 GCA since they went one of three against Georgia schools this past season, including a loss to No. 26 Norcross. Jemison’s other two losses were to Tennessee clubs. Coach Jack Doss’ club did not lose in-state and capped the season with a 58-52 victory over Faith Academy of Mobile to win the AHSAA Class 5A state title. It was Doss’ tenth state crown, having previously won at Hayes, Butler and J.O. Johnson, including last year’s crown at the latter for a now closed school. The constant in the lineup at Jemison and Johnson the past four years (three titles) has been Alabama-bound John Petty, who had 22 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and four steals in the state title game. He averaged 21.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 5.6 apg and was able to play nearly any position on the floor.
30. (NR) The Burlington School (Burlington, N.C.) 31-0
The Spartans were the epitome of team, as they had no letdowns and were highly-ranked all season long locally and by NCPreps.com. Coach Rob Johnson’s club big win was a 67-53 triumph over Trinity Christian of Fayetteville to bag the NCISAA Class 1A state crown. The Burlington School was able to erase the memory of last season’s lost to Trinity Christian in the state semifinals, as senior forward John Meeks netted a game-high 25 points. It was the program’s second state crown in three seasons. Meeks, headed to Bucknell, anchored the inside and was named all-state along with senior T.J. Jeffers for this senior-laden club.
31. (43) Jackson (Massillion, Ohio) 28-2
ESPN Recruiting’s John Stovall recommended Jackson as Ohio’s preseason No. 1 and he ended up being on the mark, as the Polar Bears won the Division I state title before 11,750 fans at Value City Arena. Jackson bested Archbishop Moeller of Cincinnati, 39-38, as Butler-bound Kyle Young made the first of two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to account for the game’s final points, as Moeller’s last-ditch shot was off the mark. Moeller entered the game unbeaten and No. 9 in the FAB 50. The Butler-bound Young had a monster game in the 75-64 state semifinal win over St. Edward of Lakewood, as he made 10-of-12 shots to score 25 points while blocking three shots. Young (18 ppg) repeated as an A.P. All-Ohio first teamer while Toledo-bound Logan Hill (12.7 ppg, over 70 % fgp) was a second team choice for a team that lost to St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron and split with Hoover of North Canton.
32. (18) West Oaks Academy (Orlando, Fla.) 18-3
The Flame had another successful season after capturing their second consecutive Sunshine Independent Athletic Association title in 2015-16 and finishing No. 30 in the FAB 50. Coach Kenny Gillion’s club did not compete in the SIAA tournament this year, but defeated eventual state champ Oldsmar Christian twice and lost to No. 8 IMG Academy by six points (83-77). West Oaks Academy also split with Victory Rock Prep of Orlando and fell to International Sports Academy in the prep division at the Beach Blast. It not easy to accurately gauge independent programs, but with the stellar backcourt of L.J. Figueroa and Sylvain Francisco there is little doubt West Oaks was one of the country’s best that doesn’t compete for a state title.
33. (NR) Blue Ridge (St. George, Va.) 30-3
With the memory of last year’s VISAA state title game on their minds, the Barons came out and handled business this time around, throttling Miller of Charlottesville, 73-36, to win its second VISAA Division II state title in three years. Clemson-bound Aamir Simms had 16 points and 10 rebounds after battling foul trouble in last season’s title game loss. Josh Colon, the Virginia Independent Conference Player of the Year, added 17 points and five assists. He had nine points and six assists in the 59-53 semifinal victory over Virginia Episcopal School, which Blue Ridge defeated two out of three games this season. Its other losses were to No. 11 Oak Hill Academy and Huntington Prep of West Virginia with key wins coming over Word of God of North Carolina and Hamilton Heights Christian Academy of Tennessee.
34. (BB) Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 27-3
After starting just outside the FAB 50, coach Antonio Irons team made immediate noise with a November win over preseason No. 4 Wheeler of Georgia and closed on a strong note, too, capturing the MSHSAA Class 4 state crown. No. 7 Jonesboro was a bit too much for the Wolverines (81-63), with the other losses coming against Kansas Class 6A state champ Blue Valley Northwest and to No. 22 Webster Groves. Vashon out-rebounded Bolivar, 32-15, and got excellent defense inside from Kansas St.-bound Levi Stockardin in its 44-32 victory in the state title game. Daniel “Peanut” Farris finished with 16 points for the Wolverines, which won back-to-back state crowns for the third time in school history and its tenth overall.
35. (NR) Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 30-3*
Dwayne “Tiny” Morton returned to the Coney Island program at the beginning of the 2015-16 season after a one-year coaching stint at Seton Hall and it didn’t take long for him to lead the Railsplitters back to the top of the Empire State. Lincoln captured the New York Federation Class AA crown with a resounding 80-63 win over highly-regarded Long Island Lutheran, its first state crown since 2008 when NBA guard Lance Stephenson was part of Morton’s program. Lincoln’s defense was the key ingredient in a 22-1 run in the second and third quarter that put the game away. Tournament MVP Donald Cannon-Flores led four Lincoln players in double figures with 21 points. The Railsplitters did not lose on the court to a team from the Empire State, as two of its losses were to Georgia programs and the third was to Bob Hurley Sr.’s final team at St. Anthony of New Jersey.
36. (NR) Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) 30-2
The Eagles weren’t expected to climb this high in the FAB 50, but for the second time in three seasons, they spoiled the dream of an unbeaten championship season for No. 39 Champlin Park. Behind the sensational play of junior Tre Jones, Apple Valley avenged an early season defeat with a 60-54 victory at Target Center. The only other loss for the Eagles came against a Maple Grove team it came back to defeat in the state semifinals, 77-54. The younger brother of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones finished the state title game with 24 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, as the Eagles won their third Class 4A state crown in five seasons. In 2015, Champlin Park also entered the MHSSL Class 4A title game unbeaten, but lost to an Apple Valley team that finished No. 40 in the FAB 50, 64-61. Tre Jones lifted the play of his teammates and scored over 23 ppg, grabbed 10 rpg and dished out over 7 apg.
37. (NR) Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio) 28-1
If an Ohio Division I state champion finishes unbeaten it’s bound to be high in the FAB 50 and the Crusaders were one step from accomplishing just that. They entered the state title game ranked No. 9 but fell to No. 31 Jackson, 39-38, after the Polar Bears’ last shot attempt was off the mark. Moeller was led by all-stater Keegan McDowell (12.9 ppg) and in the state title game by sophomore Miles McBride with 15 points and nine rebounds. Its fans felt the team was dealt a bad card when, in an obvious fouling situation with under a minute remaining, the referees called an intentional foul, giving Jackson free throws and the ball.
38. (NR) Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) 30-2
It was a memorable season for a school known nationally primarily for its exploits on the football field. The Ironmen cagers made their first trip to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions and knocked off No. 42 Linden in the semifinals, 65-58, behind 23 points and 14 rebounds from football-basketball standout Marcellus Earlington. Don Bosco, which won its first state title since 1971 by winning the Non-Public A final, fell to No. 9 Patrick School in the title game, 69-55. Chris Paul netted 19 points in a losing effort while Earlington had 13 points and two steals. Don Bosco’s only other loss was to Bergen Catholic, a team it defeated twice during the season.
39. (BB) Champlin Park (Champlin, Minn.) 31-1
Similar to No. 37 Moeller, Champlin Park was looking at a high final FAB 50 rating as it entered the MHSSL Class 4A state title game unbeaten, but No. 36 Apple Valley emerged victorious with a 60-54 win. The Rebels defeated Apple Valley, 91-84, early in the season and was sitting at No. 16 in the FAB 50 coming in. Champlin Park, which was ranked No. 13 in the preseason Midwest regional rankings, held a six-point lead early in the fourth period and was tied with Apple Valley with a minute remaining in the game. Dayton-bound McKinley Wright (22.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 7.8 apg) and Marquette-bound big man Theo John led this team all season long.
40. (BB) Grand Rapids Christian (Grand Rapids, Mich.) 27-1
The Eagles are similar to No. 39 Champlin Park in that they entered their respective state title game unbeaten and with a chance at a high final FAB 50 ranking. It came crashing down in the championship game, as GRC fell to No. 20 Clarkston, 75-69, to spoil its undefeated championship bid. The Eagles entered the title game ranked No. 18 in the FAB 50. Ironically, the Eagles began the season ranked two spots below Champlin Park (No. 15) in the preseason Midwest region rankings. Future Michigan St. big man Xavier Tillman had 25 points in a losing effort for GRC. The highest ranked Michigan team ever in the FAB 50 is Renaissance of Detroit at No. 4 for the 2003-04 season.
41. (19) Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 28-5
The Trojans started the season as the No. 1 ranked NCISA Class 3A team, three spots in front of Greensboro Day. In the final analysis, the Bengals’ experience in the big games was just too much for the Trojans to overcome, as Greensboro Day handed WCA three of its losses, including a 63-60 setback in the state title game. The largest margin of victory in the three games was five points (51-46). They only lost to Christ School by two points (78-76) and Prolific Prep of California, a team not eligible for the Fab 50, was the only club to beat them by double-digits (86-69).
42. (NR) Linden (Linden, N.J.) 26-5
The Tigers don’t have a bad loss you can point, as No. 5 Montverde Academy beat other FAB 50 ranked teams by a similar margin (61-38). Linden saw its season come to en end in the NJSIAA TOC semifinals versus No. 38 Don Bosco Prep, but deserve rankings credit for owning a win over TOC champ Patrick School. Two of its losses were to the No. 9 team in the FAB 50, with the fifth loss coming against Blair Academy. All-stater Tavon Jones (17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) led Linden to two wins over Roselle Catholic and to a second consecutive Group 4 title.
43. (NR) McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) 29-1
The Indians were up to No. 9 in the FAB 50 and were in line for a Dick’s Nationals berth, but it came crashing down after they lost to No. 17 Tift County in the GHSA Class AAAAAAA semifinals, 56-49. McEachern was the highest ranked team to fall out of the FAB 50 with a loss, but its overall resume was just too strong to leave it out of the final rankings. It also helped that its only loss was to a team that survived one of the nation’s toughest playoff brackets. Sophomore Issac Okoro was chosen second team all-state and led a team that twice beat highly-regarded Wheeler, including in the state quarterfinals, 75-60.
44. (NR) Edmond North (Edmond, Okla.) 27-2
For the first time ever the Huskies played for a state title and they came through, routing Washington of Tulsa, 78-53. In the state semifinals, Washington defeated then FAB 50 ranked Tulsa Union, which handed the Huskies one of its two losses. In its own semifinal, Edmond North railed from a fourth quarter deficit behind Harrison Stoddard (19 points) to defeat Putnam City North, 67-62. Marques Wilson netted 23 points in the title game rout for a team that split games with the other team it lost to: Trae Young and his Norman North club.
45. (NR) Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.) 24-5
The Giants won their first state title under coach Mark James and their first since 1996 by defeating Fort Wayne North Side, 55-52, in the Class 4A championship game. James’ team played a terrific brand of team defense and had various players step up in its playoff run. Jalen Windham hit a 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to give the Giants a three point lead it wouldn’t relinquish and finished with a game-high 15 points. Datrion Harper made a layup with 30 seconds to go to make it a two possession game and finished with 14 points. James, in his 35th year of coaching, said this team might have been his most cohesive ever.
46. (NR) Basha (Chandler, Ariz.) 30-1
No. 16 Shadow Mountain got a majority of headlines among teams in Arizona, but the Bears proved to be worthy of national acclaim, too. Led by a terrific senior class that included forward Gabe McGlothan and guard Terrell Brown, Basha won its first state title by defeating a talented Corona Del Sol of Tempe team that was FAB 50 ranked earlier in the season, 75-65. Its only loss came in its regular season finale to a Gilbert Perry team it defeated earlier in the season, 61-44. McGlothan, bound for Army, was an All-Arizona selection after averaging 14 ppg and 10 rpg.
47. (NR) Woodcreek (Roseville, Calif.) 32-3
What seemed to be a stinker loss to Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood less than 24 hours after a hard-fought defeat to No. 19 Chino Hills didn’t turn out to be so bad. Harvard-Westlake went on to win a CIF Southern Section title and Woodcreek didn’t lose again until falling to FAB 50 No. 6 Bishop Montgomery, 74-67, in the CIF Open Division state title game. In between, the Timberwolves captured the CIF San Joaquin Section D1 and NorCal Open crowns by defeating regionally-ranked Sheldon of Sacramento in both title games. Senior point guard Tyrell Roberts stepped up his game this season and junior big man Jordan Brown was dominant all season long, going for 35 points and 17 rebounds vs. Bishop Montgomery and 38 and 14 versus Chino Hills.
48. (NR) Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) 27-6*
It wasn’t a vintage year for individual talent and teams in Chicago, but the Windy City has been on such a roll in recent seasons (Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, etc.) it was only a matter of time before there was a temporary dip. Simeon of Chicago defeated No. 15 Gonzaga in its opener and defeated the Dolphins two of three games, including in the Chicago Public League semifinals, but lost to coach Tyrone Slaughter’s club when it mattered most in the Class 4A state title game. The game went into overtime, where Young’s Justin Boyd opened the extra period with a 3-pointer and the Dolphins made 5-of-6 free throws to seal the 60-50 victory. The win gave Young its fourth state crown.
49. (50) Meridian (Meridian, Miss.) 30-2
Our Mississippi correspondent Lavel Johnson nailed the Wildcats as his preseason team to beat from the Magnolia State. First year coach Ron Norman had a talented group of seniors that led his team past Murrah of Jackson, 68-59, in the Class 6A state title game, as senior point guard Jay Malone had 23 points. Murrah upset Brandon in the state semifinals, as many expected to see a Meridian-Brandon rubber match after those two clubs split games during the regular season. Meridian, who easily downed Calloway of Jackson in its semifinal 67-50, lost its other regular season game to Forest Hill.
50. (NR) Rindge & Latin (Cambridge, Mass.) 24-0
The final team to crack our rankings comes from the East Region, as the Falcons captured the MIAA Division 1 state title with a 70-43 win over Franklin. Senior big man Dimon Carrigan led the way with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots, as Rindge and Latin won its second consecutive crown. The Falcons enter 2017-18 riding a 45-game winning streak and even though they lose four starters, they have enough returning talent and tradition to be state title contender once again.
Note: The FAB 50 powered by Ballislife.com is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota compiled them. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 17 years ago.