Chipotle Nationals: Can Anyone Beat Montverde Academy?

Will Chipotle Nationals be a coronation for the No. 1 team in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings? Or will another ranked squad in the eight-team field give the Eagles a serious run for their money? We give a quick breakdown of the matchups and some insight to Chipotle Nationals (formerly known as GEICO Nationals).

RELATED: Chipotle Nationals Record Book (2009-2023)

The program at Montverde Academy in Florida has won Chipotle Nationals, the end of-season tournament founded in 2009 when it was known as the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, a record six times. The program, which will make its record 13th appearance this April, won the event in 2013-15, 2018, 2021-22. Those years do not coincide with the years Montverde Academy captured its six FAB 50 national titles. That’s because in 2020, the program put together its best team, only to be denied a chance for a coronation at the event because the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 version of the event never took place.

In 2022, Kevin Boyle’s Eagles won the event for the sixth time, downing Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) in the title game, 60-49. That season, however, MVA finished No. 2 in the FAB 50 behind Duncanville (Texas), which beat them in a head-to-head matchup on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Panthers junior guard Aric Demings.

Many fans and scribes felt the 2020 event would be a coronation for that Cade Cunningham-Scottie Barnes led club that defeated its foes, including 12 FAB 50 ranked teams, by 39.0 ppg, one of the largest winning margins among elite high school basketball programs we’ve covered over the years. This year’s unit, which has another terrific starting five led by Mr. Basketball USA candidates Cooper Flagg (Duke) and Derik Queen (Maryland) and three other players who were serious McDonalds’ All-American candidates, hasn’t been that dominant in its winning margin, but some feel Chipotle Nationals (April 4-6 in Brownsburg, Ind.) is a coronation of sorts.

One aspect of its resume this year’s MVA club has over previous title teams, even the 2019-20 unit that will go down as one of the best in high school history, is its strength of schedule. Flagg, Queen, Liam McNeeley (Indiana) and company defeated a whopping 21 teams that have been FAB 50 ranked at some point during the regular season. Obviously that number could grow to 24 in this eight-team bracket. One interesting aspect of the field is Montverde Academy has beaten all seven of its potential opponents at this event, outscoring the other seven participants by nearly 15 ppg (the Eagles have beaten FAB 50 No. 4 Long Island Lutheran of New York and No. 6 Prolific Prep of California twice).

To answer the question, yes, Montverde Academy can be beat. There is just too much talent and familiarity within the teams in this field.

Will it be easy? No. Would it be an upset? Yes, but not a big one it that occurred after its first round game with FAB 50 No. 12 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.), the No. 8 seed. This AZ Compass Prep team is gritty and fearless. Led by junior (2025) guard Jeremiah Fears, it just doesn’t have the elite scoring talent the Eagles have across the board. MVA beat the Dragons, 58-46, in a December meeting in Las Vegas that was fairly competitive.

Whoever wins the No. 4 vs No. 5 seed quarterfinal matchup between Long Island Lutheran and FAB 50 No. 2 Columbus (Miami, Fla.), could potentially give MVA all it can handle in the semifinals. Columbus’ seeding really doesn’t match the quality of wins it has, even though Cameron Boozer and company have losses to unranked Wasatch Academy and No. 17 Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), along with losses to No. 6 seed Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) and to Montverde Academy in a game that wasn’t very competitive (89-61). Columbus does have a win over No. 2 seed and FAB 50 No. 3 Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.) and over Long Island Lutheran (which lost to AZ Compass Prep).

Boozer, last year’s Mr. Basketball USA as a sophomore, his twin brother Cayden Boozer and Jase Richardson, a talented guard headed to Michigan St., played more cohesively over the last month of the season and are motivated to show the Explorers can play with Montverde, but beating Long Island Lutheran a second time won’t be an easy task. V.J. Edgecombe could have a breakout tournament and LuHi has plenty of depth, including standout juniors such as Kiyan Anthony, Nigel James, Jacob Ross and Kayden Mingo. Whoever survives that first round game should have plenty of confidence vs. Montverde Academy in a potential semifinal on April 5.

Last year, we felt Paul VI had a tough draw against Link Academy, the eventual Chipotle Nationals champ and FAB 50 No. 1 team. We felt whoever won that No. 4 vs. No. 5 quarterfinal matchup had a chance to win the whole tournament and Link ran the tables after a 68-65 win over the Panthers. This year, Paul VI is the No. 2 seed and could be even better. The Panthers return most of their cast, including Duke-bound Darren Harris, one of the better talents in this tournament. The individual numbers don’t do Harris justice on this deep and balanced team that could be the one that gives Montverde Academy all it can handle in the championship game.

Paul VI opens up with No. 7 seed IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), the lowest ranked team in the field (No. 14) which already has a loss to the Panthers. With junior guard Darius Acuff Jr., the Ascenders will always have a chance because of his penchant for scoring and play-making. In fact, he led the EYBL Scholastic League (which includes five Chipotle Nationals participants) in scoring at 21.3 ppg. The key to the No. 2 vs. No. 7 seed game will be if IMG Academy’s front court players, such as Donnie Freeman, can slow down Paul VI on the boards and keep the Panthers from second shot opportunities.

Montverde Academy has played in the most overall tournament games by far (26-6 record in 12 appearances), but No. 6 seed Link Academy actually has the best winning percentage in the event’s history (5-1) after advancing to the title game in 2022 in its first year of eligibility and winning it all last year. Coach Billy Armstrong will have his team ready in its matchup with No. 3 seed Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), a dangerous club that could win it all if it’s healthy and in sync. Link Academy has a legitimate Mr. Basketball USA candidate in Tre Johnson that could help the Lions pull off a minor upset against a team it has already lost to, 77-76, in the first game of the season super sophomore Tyran Stokes played for The Crew after missing the team's first nine games. During the middle portion of its schedule (nearly two months), McDonald’s All-American Derrion Reid was out with injury, but he’s an indispensable piece if Prolific Prep is to defeat Link Academy, potentially Paul VI and possibly meet Montverde Academy in the finals.

Nobody has played Montverde Academy tougher than Prolific Prep. Playing the Eagles tough, however, and beating this year’s team, are two different things. Montverde Academy’s unit knows what’s at stake in trying to live up to the lofty standards that previous MVA units set. The field, however, is as talented as it’s ever been and these teams know each other inside and out. Whoever emerges will be a worthy champion and if that is one of the top four seeds, it willl likely finish at No. 1 in the final FAB 50 on April 8.

Chipotle Nationals April 4 Lineup

No. 1 Montverde Academy (1) vs. No. 12 AZ Compass Prep (8), 8 pm ET
No. 4 Long Island Lutheran (4) vs. No. 2 Columbus (5), 4 pm ET
No. 6 Prolific Prep (3) vs. No. 11 Link Academy (6), 6 pm ET
No. 3 Paul VI (2) vs. No. No. 14 IMG Academy (7), 2 pm ET

Note: Seeds listed in parenthesis. All quarterfinal games televised on ESPNU. The semifinals on April 5 will be televised on ESPN2, as will the title game on April 6 (12 pm ET).

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of He can be reached at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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