Junior guard Aric Demings nails a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1.5 seconds remaining to give FAB 50 No. 5 Duncanville (Texas) a nail-biting 67-66 victory over FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in the marquee game at Hoophall West in Scottsdale, Ariz. Read on to see how this victory will shake up the rankings, what it means for Duncanville and what is coming next for the hottest team in the country. The Panthers have displayed the makings of a No. 1 team, but there are hurdles coming both on and off the court.
With 7.1 seconds remaining in a tie game, Duncanville coach David Peavy sensed his team over-reacted to what the Panthers thought was a bad foul call on junior forward Ronald Holland in their game with FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Fla.). It came with the score tied at 64-64, but Peavy told his charges, “hey, don’t worry about it, let’s just go win.”
Montverde Academy’s Kwame Evans Jr. nailed both free throws to give the Eagles a two-point lead after they forced a turnover on Duncanville’s Anthony Black with 19.3 seconds as the boys from Texas were playing for the final shot. The Panthers eventually did get the final shot, as they quickly got the ball up court after Evans’ second made free throw. Junior guard Aric Demings got the ball more than 45 feet from the basket, made a move and a slight shot fake and got the Montverde Academy defender just off balance enough to get off a clean look from 3-point range a step behind the line. The shot swished through the basket with 1.5 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 67-66 lead and the stunned Eagles were unable to get off a shot attempt, as Duncanville celebrated its six win over a FAB 50 ranked foe 10 games into the young season in the best game played at Hoophall West in recent memory.
It wasn’t just any victory for the No. 5 team in the latest FAB 50 rankings. It had just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country, one that hadn’t lost to program not part of the eight-team National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) since February of 2017. The result proved to basketball fans the team is a major mythical national title contender as a public school.
Minutes after the game, Holland, one of the nation’s better junior forwards, was lamenting the win with fellow junior Ashton Hardaway. He echoes the sentiments of the entire staff and players. “We don’t go into any game thinking we are going to lose,” Holland said. “Maybe people around the country didn’t think we were going to win, but it’s not even a question for us. Not even a thought (we’re going to lose).”
Duncanville (10-0) is as confident as any team in the country, having already beat ranked teams from Georgia, California (its top two) and Louisiana. If the country didn’t know, they certainly do now that Texas high school basketball is as good as anywhere in the country. Winning the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Class 6A state crown is as tough as any road to a state title in the country, on top of Duncanville’s national schedule. If that isn’t enough, FAB 50 No. 10 Richardson (Texas) is currently unbeaten and turned heads nationally with its 61-38 shellacking of AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.) at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas. Some felt AZ Compass Prep was the best independent team in the country coming into the season, but it doesn’t phase Peavy and his players. He’s ultra-confident his team will prevail if the Panthers were to meet Richardson at the Whataburger Tournament in Mansfield, Texas (Dec. 28-30).
“We’ve been in this type of situation many times before,” Black said. “Even though it was a bad call, we just had to go out and win, regardless.”
At the beginning of the game, Duncanville took quick shots and looked out of sorts, as Montverde Academy (4-2) hurt the Panthers on the glass. Towards the end of the first period, Duncanville settled down and began making the extra pass, taking better shots from the field and not rushing possessions.
Texas’ best team four years running trailed, 21-8, after one period of play, but it tighten up its offense and started the second period with an increased defensive intensity. Sparked by Demings on both ends of the floor, it quickly became a ballgame as Duncanville took the lead 27-26 on a 3-pointer by Hardaway, a junior jump-shooting transplant from SoCal. After outscoring Montverde Academy, 23-7 in the second period, the Panthers took a 31-28 halftime lead.
“We had to slow down their second chance points,” said Demings, who had a huge contest in front of a plethora of national scouts and media, leading four Duncanville double digit scorers with 23 points, including 5-of-8 3-point shots made. Demings told Ballislife he holds offers from Morgan State University and Texas–Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), but his offer count is going to change after this performance. He’s a ball-hawk on defense, has good passing instincts, can hit the catch-and-shoot perimeter shot or create for himself as he displayed on the game-winning play.
In the third period, Duncanville’s lead grew to as big as 13 points and the score was 52-43 entering the fourth period. Montverde quickly went on a 8-0 run to cut its deficit to one point and it was a back-and-forth battle from that point on.
Down the stretch, Montverde Academy’s Dillon Mitchell had two big-time blocks and one of them was saved from going out of bounds by Evans and it translated into a monster one-hand flush for Dariq Whitehead to tie at game at 61-61 all with 1:15 remaining. Evans tied the game on a corner 3-pointer at 64-64 after a putback by Duncanville’s Rasuan Collier temporarily gave the Panthers a 3-point lead. After Evan’s 3-pointer, Duncanville held for the last shot (there was no shot clock in this game) before Black’s turnover with 19.3 seconds remaining prior to the incredible ending.
Holland finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for Duncanville, while Ashton and Black added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Duncanville was man-handled early on the boards, but closed the rebounding deficit to 38-30 by the final buzzer.
For Montverde Academy, Whitehead showed why he is a bonafide Mr. Basketball USA candidate, fishing with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field. Before fouling out in the final three minutes, Malik Reneau had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, who last weekend lost to No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) by one point. Evans added 12 points and Mitchell had dominant moments for the snake-bitten Eagles with eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
According to Jim Hicks of RCS Sports, the Duncanville-Montverde contest was the biggest regular season game involving at least one UIL club since eventual 2009-10 FAB 50 national champion Yates (Houston), defeated Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.), 97-96, at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii in December of 2009. We agree with Hicks’ assessment, since it was the Saints’ only setback in a season in which they finished No. 2 in the FAB 50. One season earlier, Duncanville opened up as preseason No. 1 in the 2008-09 FAB 50 under then coach Phil McNeely, but faltered twice during the regular season.
This Duncanville team has a chance to accomplish what McNeely’s fine 2009-10 clubs didn’t by finishing a championship season unbeaten, but it’s literally one game, and one day, at a time for a club that fully expects to win every outing. Duncanville is leaving Arizona to play American Fork (Utah) at the Holiday Hoopfest in Utah on December 11. It will also face DeSoto (Texas) on December 21. But before the Panthers or Lone Star State fans can dream of a Duncanville-Richardson matchup of unbeatens at the Whataburger Tournament, there is some business that must be addressed both on and off the court.
Richardson must get by FAB 50 No. 39 Kenwood Academy (Chicago, Ill.) and No. 31 North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) in back-to-back games at the Battle if the Bluff in Memphis on Friday and Saturday evening.
On Monday, December 13, Duncanville will find out the fate of its temporary court-issued injunction for Black’s eligibility. Black was granted an injunction on November 19 to be able to suit up for the Panthers after initially being ruled ineligible by the UIL in October. If the judge doesn’t rule in favor of the Black and the Panthers, Duncanville will have to forfeit the games Black played in under UIL rules. If the ruling is in Duncanville’s favor, the dream season for a confident team will continue.
Regardless of how Black’s injuntion plays out Duncanville won’t drop in the FAB 50, unless it loses on the hardwood.
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 22 years ago. The FAB 50 is the longest-running weekly national rankings.