FINAL FAB 50: Chino Hills Crowned National Champs!
Flores, RonnieRonnie has scouted and evaluated high school basketball talent for 20 years (and counting) and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports and ESPN. He also serves as a manager and consultant for grassroots high school events run by Ballislife, as well as other independent operators and major shoe companies. Ronnie also serves as an account manager and production supervisor for television and online streaming broadcasts while working with companies such as ESPN and Facebook. Ronnie has been quoted in numerous publications such as the Los Angeles Times and has appeared on radio sports talk shows to discuss high school and grassroots basketball, as well as serving as a color commentator on numerous high school broadcasts. The only scout/prep journalist to once serve on the prestigious Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Best of the West panel for both football and boys’ basketball, Ronnie has also served on the selection committees for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year program, the John Wooden Award for high school basketball players and as a player personnel director for the Ballislife All-American Game and Under Armour Elite 24.
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Chino Hills of California captures the FAB 50 national crown presented by Ballislife.com by winning 35 games without a loss and defeating 11 programs who were ranked in the FAB 50 this season en route to the CIF Open Division state title to edge Oak Hill Academy of Virginia. Oak Hill Academy, which does not compete for a state title, closed out its season by winning the Dick’s Nationals tournament in New York. Read on for an explanation of Chino Hills-Oak Hill Academy decision and check back at the end of the week for expanded FAB 50 rankings with write-ups for all 50 teams.
By Ronnie Flores
Entering the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament in New York, two teams had a realistic chance to finish No. 1 in the final 2015-16 FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com and capture the mythical national title for boys high school basketball: FAB 50 No. 1 Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) and No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).
Chino Hills defeated No. 2 and three-time defending FAB 50 national champion Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 83-82 in the quarterfinals of the City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla., so the head-to-head factor eliminated the Eagles from the race. California Interscholastic Federation member schools are not allowed to compete at Dick’s Nationals.
In New York, top-seeded Montverde Academy fell to FAB 50 No. 9 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) 55-47 in the semifinals to set up a Saturday championship showdown at Madison Square Garden with Oak Hill Academy, which advanced to the title game via victories over FAB 50 No. 28 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) in the semifinals (47-46) and No. 25 Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah) in the quarterfinals (81-64). Since the event began at the conclusion of the 2009 season, Oak Hill Academy has been snakebite at the event, losing in the final four times, including the past two seasons to Montverde Academy.
It looked like Oak Hill Academy was going to cruise to its first-ever Dick’s Nationals title, as the Warriors led by 18 points midway through the third period. Oak Hill, however, allowed La Lumiere to crawl back in the game despite the Lakers losing 6-foot-11 junior forward Jeremiah Tilmon to a dislocated shoulder early in the contest. The Lakers took a 52-50 lead in regulation before Braxton Key of Oak Hill was able to tie the game on two made free throws with 6.6 seconds remaining. La Lumiere, which defeated No. 7 St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) 60-59 in the quarterfinals to avenge an earlier loss to the Gray Bees, didn’t get the field goal look it wanted from leading scorer Brian “Tugs” Bowen in the closing seconds.
In overtime, La Lumiere led by as many as three points with possession, but Oak Hill tied the game on a conventional 3-point play by Lindell Wigginton with 35.2 seconds remaining. After that sequence, there was a five-second differential between the 30-second shot clock and the game clock, and La Lumiere’s field goal attempt allowed Oak Hill’s Matt Coleman to race up the court for the potential game-winning 3-point field goal. His shot was off, but Virginia Tech-bound big man Khadim Sy tipped in the carom at the buzzer to give the Warriors the tourney title and a 45-1 final record.
Key, bound for Alabama, finished with 20 points and was named Dick’s Nationals Most Valuable Player, while Wigginton, a junior, earned all-tourney honors after finishing with 16 points. Coleman, also a junior, added eight points, seven assists and two steals. Bowen (20 points) earned all-tourney honors for a La Lumiere team that will return six rotation players in 2016-17.
Why Chino Hills?
With Oak Hill Academy getting the win and finishing its season 45-1, its resume had to be weighted against that of Chino Hills, which did not taste defeat in 35 outings. Oak Hill Academy defeated 13 programs that were ranked in the FAB 50 at some point during the season, including three teams in New York.
Chino Hills defeated 11 programs that were ranked at some point and actually beat three of those teams — No. 36 Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.), No. 38 Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.), No. 43 High Point Christian (High Point, N.C.) — more than once. In its much anticipated first meeting with Bishop Montgomery (ranked No. 7 at the time), the Knights actually had a late lead on the Huskies before allowing it to slip away, as Chino Hills recorded a 71-67 win. In the rematch in the SoCal Open Division regional finals, Chino Hills dominated even more than the 84-62 score indicates, as the Huskies won their eight playoff games against the toughest competition in the nation’s largest and most populous state by an average of 29 points.
Oak Hill’s lone loss came against 22-foot Academy (Greenville, S.C.) in November. Because that program includes post-graduates on its roster, the result of that 70-67 loss had to be scrutinized even deeper. Oak Hill and other academy-type programs built for national schedules regularly play and defeat teams with players who have exhausted their regular high school eligibility. There are advantages for academy-type programs over traditional high schools and having to defeat post-grad teams is one of the challenges it deals with.
We had a chance to evaluate 22-foot Academy (Greenville, S.C.) at the Tarkanian Classic in December and while talented, it’s not a team a program gunning for a mythical national crown can ill-afford to lose to when compared against a unbeaten team with multiple wins over other FAB 50-ranked teams from a traditional power state (in this case California). 22-foot Academy lost to unranked programs Evelyn Mack Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) and Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) and to regionally-ranked Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) and Victory Rock Prep (Sarasota, Fla.).
We also took a look at the common opponent factor between Chino Hills and Oak Hill Academy. No. 41 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), playing without junior Ira Lee, led Oak Hill the entire game before losing on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, 49-48, in the championship game of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Chino Hills defeated that same team sans Lee, 105-83, in the CIFSS Open Division title game. Oak Hill defeated regionally-ranked Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), 74-55, at the Hoophall Classic, while the Huskies defeated the Monarchs by 48 (102-54) in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals. Oak Hill’s 74-50 victory over Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ga.) also didn’t provide any further compelling evidence to make the rankings switch, as coach Steve Baik’s club defeated M.J. Walker and company, 124-93, at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic.
Oak Hill led La Lumiere by 18 points in the third quarter and, ironically, also led 22-foot Academy by the same margin before losing. Oak Hill was able to pull out the win over La Lumiere to make its argument in the race for No. 1 compelling, but not enough to knock Chino Hills from the rankings position it held since the turn of the calendar year.
The Harry Giles Factor
While Chino Hills, which started the season No. 11 in the FAB 50, seemed to have plenty of rankings factors go its way during the course of the season, Oak Hill dealt with adversity most of the season. Harry Giles, the Duke bound recruit who likely would have challenged Chino Hills’ Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) for Mr. Basketball USA honors, was lost for the season early in Oak Hill’s first game. Considering Oak Hill went 45-1 without him, it was a remarkable season for the preseason No. 1 ranked team. Oak Hill also played plenty of games without Penn State-bound forward Joe Hampton, whereas Chino Hills basically played five players and didn’t run into significant injuries or fouls outs during key games.
We’ll never know for sure, but if Giles was in the lineup, Oak Hill might have finished 46-0 and been favorably compared to its best teams ever — the 1992-93 edition led by Jerry Steakhouse that finished 36-0 and the 2003-04 team led by Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo that finished 38-0. Oak Hill also won FAB 50 national titles in 1994, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2012.
One coach whose team participated at Dick’s Nationals said Chino Hills should be No. 1 — and said that before the conclusion of the event. It was a remarkable season for California’s first FAB 50 No. 1 club since Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) in 1999-00. Chino Hills averaged 98.5 points per game and dominated California’s top teams behind the play of the UCLA-bound Ball, California’s all-time assist king who is scheduled to play in the 6th Annual Ballislife All-American Game April 30. The 35 victories ties the state record for most wins in a season by an unbeaten club, according to Cal-Hi Sports. That was first accomplished in 2013-14 when Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) went 35-0 and finished No. 2 in the FAB 50 behind one-loss Montverde Academy. Chino Hills’ victory over the three-time defending champions was a key turning point in the Huskies believing a national crown was a real possibility.
“The biggest thing is the guys have been so hungry,” Baik said. “They kicked it up a notch after we beat Montverde Academy. After we won that tournament (City of Palms), it was like, ‘Whoa, we have something here.’ Credit to the guys, they kicked it up a notch defensively during the playoffs.”
FINAL FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com
(Sixteenth and final poll of the 2015-16 regular season; Through games played on Saturday, April 2; Previous ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; Final 2015-16 Region-by-Region Top 20 Rankings will be published Tuesday, April 5.)
|No.||Prev.||High School (City)||Record|
|1||1||Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.)||35-0|
|2||3||Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)||45-1|
|3||4||St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)||32-0|
|4||9||La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.)||27-4|
|5||2||Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)||26-2|
|6||5||University of Detroit Jesuit (Detoit, Mich.)||28-0|
|7||10||DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)||32-5|
|8||11||Stevens Point (Stevens Point, Wis.)||28-0|
|9||12||DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas)||35-2|
|10||13||Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Ga.)||30-2|
|11||14||Memphis East (Memphis, Tenn.)||32-2|
|12||16||Atascocita (Humble, Texas)||38-1|
|13||15||Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.)||27-4|
|14||17||Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.)||28-3|
|15||18||Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.)||27-5|
|16||28||Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.)||31-3|
|17||19||H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.)||32-0**|
|18||20||Althoff Catholic (Belleville, Ill.)||32-2|
|19||21||St. John’s (Washington, D.C.)||30-5|
|20||6||Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)||28-2|
|21||22||Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)||31-1|
|22||7||St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.)||35-2|
|23||23||Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.)||27-4|
|24||24||Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)||33-1|
|25||27||Lancaster (Lancaster, Texas)||36-2|
|26||26||Federal Way (Federal Way, Wash.)||29-0|
|27||8||Providence Day (Charlotte, N.C.)||30-4|
|28||32||Overland (Aurora, Col.)||25-3|
|29||29||Advanced International Prep (Dallas, Texas)||34-7|
|30||30||West Oaks Academy (Orlando, Fla.)||25-4|
|31||31||New Albany (New Albany, Ind.)||27-1|
|32||33||Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.)||22-8|
|33||25||Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah)||29-4|
|34||34||Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.)||23-6|
|35||35||Dakota (Macomb, Mich.)||26-1|
|36||36||Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.)||28-3|
|37||37||West Linn (West Linn, Ore.)||26-3|
|38||40||Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.)||25-5|
|39||38||Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn, N.Y.)||26-9|
|40||39||Bingham (South Jordan, Utah)||24-2|
|41||44||Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)||26-5|
|42||43||Curie (Chicago, Ill.)||29-3**|
|43||41||High Point Christian (High Point, N.C.)||24-6|
|44||42||Westerville South (Westerville, Ohio)||26-4|
|45||49||Grandview Prep (Boca Raton, Fla.)||34-0|
|46||46||Lima Senior (Lima, Ohio)||29-1|
|47||47||Fort Bend Elkins (Missouri City, Texas)||36-3|
|48||48||Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.)||29-2|
|49||45||Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.)||28-5|
|50||50||Omaha South (Omaha, Neb.)||28-1|
Dropped Out: None.
Final 2015-16 Region-by-Region Top 20 Rankings will be published Tuesday, April 5.
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 16 years ago.