Michael Porter DELIVERS! Hale is NEW FAB 50 No. 1!

Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) had the most productive MLK weekend of any team in the country, winning the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri on Saturday and knocking off previous No. 1 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) in a memorable Monday MLK game at the Hoophall Classic. Sierra Canyon's "Springfield Double" opened up the door for a new No. 1 team in the FAB 50 -- Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.). Sierra Canyon has quite an impressive resume, but the head-to-head factor was the deciding factor in the rankings debate. National player of the year candidate Michael Porter Jr. has delivered on his preseason promise to make Nathan Hale a mythical FAB 50 national title contender.

By Ronnie Flores

There is no doubt a franchise type player can turn a high school team's fortunes around, but when a program goes 3-18 the year prior, preseason placement is not easy by any means. In the 2016-17 preseason, we placed Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.) at No. 38 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com. Our reasoning was Hale's prior record and the fact we felt it was appropriate to begin the Raiders behind WIAA powers Garfield (Seattle), the Metro League champs who began at No. 30, and Rainier Beach, the defending Class 3A state champ, which checked in at No. 23. Hale also had a new coach (former Garfield and NBA standout Brandon Roy) and the franchise player, Washington-bound Michael Porter Jr., played for a team that wasn't FAB 50-ranked as a junior.

That didn't sit well with Porter, who moved to the Pacific Northwest from Father Tolton (St. Louis, Mo.) and was considered one of the nation's best players. When we asked on Twitter which team was the best candidate to quickly move up, he tweeted "Nathan Hale" and has backed up that tweet with outstanding play this season. Porter's brilliant individual play, Hale's unbeaten record combined with key results from around the country over the past month has turned a 3-18 outfit into the nation's No. 1 ranked team.

Michael Porter DeliversAt the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. on MLK Monday, Porter led Hale to a 80-77 victory over preseason No. 1 and current No. 14 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) by scoring 37 points. Jontay Porter, his younger brother, added 13 points for the unbeaten Raiders. Later that afternoon, then No. 1 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) took on No. 6 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) in a highly-anticipated matchup. Not only was it high-level in terms of talent level, intensity and physicality, the game took on additional meaning after Sierra Canyon captured the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. against a field that included then No. 2 Memphis East (Memphis, Tenn.) No. 3 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), No. 7 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and No. 37 Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Ga.).

After trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half, Sierra Canyon stormed back by the play of Arizona St.-bound point guard Remy Martin and junior center Marvin Bagley III to pull out a 76-74 gut-check win. Porter is the current Mr. Basketball USA front-runner, but if he isn't the best player in high school basketball it just might be Bagley. The left-handed power forward who can run like a deer finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Martin added 18 points and 12 assists. In the 75-59 win over Memphis East in the Bass Pro title game, Bagley went for 18 points and 12 rebounds, while UCLA-bound forward Cody Riley played tremendously with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Memphis East had beaten Montverde Academy for the second time in three tries in the tournament semifinals.

While Sierra Canyon's resume is awfully impressive, with a potential date with FAB 50 No. 7 and defending FAB 50 mythical national champion Chino Hills (Calif.) in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs looming, head-to-head results is usually the most important factor in the FAB 50 equation. In this case, Nathan Hale handled business by defeating Sierra Canyon 67-65 in the title game of the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, Ore. on December 30. Bagley had 22 points for the Trailblazers, but Porter took his game to another level for a Hale team that outscored its foe, 26-15, in the fourth period. The Washington committed and probable top 3 2018 NBA Draft pick finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four steals while averaging 32 points and 16.7 rebounds during the tournament.

Looking Ahead

Nathan Hale's No. 1 ranking also has to do with what it already accomplished and what may be on the horizon. It already owns a win over Rainier Beach (74-61) and No. 24 Garfield (87-64), the latter game during the Les Schwab tournament, plus the Raiders will again face Garfield on national television January 27. From there, they'll have to get by those clubs in the Metro League Tournament and win the WIAA Class 3A state title in order to maintain the No. 1 ranking.

If Nathan Hale wins the state title, an invitation to Dick's Nationals is almost assured. It that happens, the road to the FAB 50 title will be a long one indeed, but the Raiders definitely control their own destiny. Rainier Beach participated in the event in 2014 when it finished 29-1 and No. 6 in the FAB 50.

If Sierra Canyon were to face Chino Hills in the CIF Open Division championship game, the Huskies could have already broken the California state record for consecutive victories. The defending FAB 50 champions currently own a 53-game winning streak. The state record, according to Cal-Hi Sports, is 66 set by Compton (Calif.) clubs that won back-to-back mythical national titles in 1967-68 and 1968-69. Chino Hills plays Oak Hill Academy at the Nike Extravaganza in California on February 4.

Ironically, not only is Sierra Canyon a spot behind Hale in the latest FAB 50, Chino Hills doesn't own the nation's longest winning streak. That also belongs to a WIAA team. Federal Way (Federal Way, Wash.), the top-ranked Class 4A team, breaks in to the FAB 50 at No. 48. The Eagles (who finished 29-0 and No. 26 in last season's final FAB 50) have won 58 consecutive games.

Updated FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com

(Fifth poll of the 2016-17 regular season; Through games played on Monday, January 16; Previous ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included)

No.Prev.High School (City)Record
15Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.)14-0
26Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)16-1
31La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.)16-1
42Memphis East (Memphis, Tenn.)15-3
53Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)16-2
64IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)18-1
79Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.)18-0
811Simeon (Chicago, Ill.)16-0
910Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.)9-2
1013West Oaks Academy (Orlando, Fla.)12-1
1114Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)11-1*
1218DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)13-1
137Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)19-3
148Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)18-3
1522Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.)16-0
1623Clarkston (Clarkston, Mich.)9-0
1730McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)15-0
1832Klein Forest (Houston, Texas)21-0
19NRPaul VI (Fairfax, Va.)14-2
2035Blue Ridge (St. George, Va.)16-1
2112Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)13-3
2215Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.)16-2
2320Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)19-1
2424Garfield (Seattle, Wash.)13-2
2525Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.)18-5
2628Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.)20-1
2736Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.)19-1
2833Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)14-4
2931Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.)20-2
3039Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.)18-0
3140Evanston (Evanston, Ill.)15-2
3221North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.)13-1
3334The Burlington School (Burlington, N.C.)17-0
3445Houston Math, Science & Tech (Houston, Texas)25-1
3537Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Ga.)13-4
3650Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio)13-0
3738New Albany (New Albany, Ind.)12-2
3846The Rock School (Gainesville, Fla.)19-1
3941Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.)7-3
4043Brentwood Academy (Nashville, Tenn.)14-2
41NRMae Jemison (Huntsville, Ala.)19-4
4216St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)9-2
43NRChamplin Park (Champlin, Minn.)11-0
4449Skyline (Dallas, Texas)20-1
45NRNeumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.)8-5
4617St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.)14-2
4748Jefferson (Portland, Ore.)8-1
48NRFederal Way (Federal Way, Wash.)15-0
49NRUnion (Tulsa, Okla.)11-0
50NRNewton (Covington, Ga.)18-0

Dropped Out: Previous No. 19 Jackson (Massillion, Ohio), No. 26 Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.), No. 27 Trinity (Louisville, Ky.), No. 29 Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.), No. 42 Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.), No. 44 Norcross (Norcross, Ga.), No. 47 East English Village Prep (Detroit, Mich.).

Bubble Teams:  Apollo (Glendale, Ariz.) 16-3; Basha (Chandler, Ariz.) 20-0; Birmingham (Lake Balboa, Calif.) 15-3; Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 12-6; Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) 6-1; Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) 14-2; Brandon (Brandon, Miss.) 18-1; Butler (Matthews, N.C.) 18-0; Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 13-1; Clark (Las Vegas, Nev.) 16-3; Corona Del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) 17-2; Desert Vista (Phoenix, Ariz.) 13-2; East English Village Prep (Detroit, Mich.) 7-1; East Lansing (East Lansing, Mich.) 8-0; Edmond North (Edmond, Okla.) 10-1; Edwardsville (Edwardsville, Ill.) 13-1; Fern Creek (Louisville, Ky.) 17-2; First Love Christian Academy (Washington, Pa.) 10-2; Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.) 14-2; Grand Rapids Christian (Grand Rapids, Mich.) 6-0; Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 22-3; Hillhouse, (New Haven, Conn.) 9-0; Jackson (Massillion, Ohio) 9-1; Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 14-2*; Linden (Linden, N.J.) 8-2; Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 12-2; McCallie School (Chattanooga, Tenn.) 19-2; Meridian (Meridian, Miss.) 17-2; Minneapolis North (Minneapolis, Minn.) 12-1; Newark (Newark, Ohio) 13-0; Oak Ridge (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) 15-2; Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 14-2; Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio) 11-1; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Utah) 12-1; Potomac (Dumfries, Va.) 13-1; Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) 9-3; Rindge & Latin (Cambridge, Mass.) 8-0; Rock Creek Christian (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 12-0; St. John's (Washington, D.C.) 13-4; Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) 14-3; Tift County (Tifton, Ga.) 19-1; Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) 18-2; Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood, Ohio) 10-1; University of Detroit Jesuit (Detroit, Mich.) 7-2; University Lab (Baton Rouge, La.) 19-2; Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 9-2; Wagner (San Antonio, Texas) 22-1; Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) 16-3; William Allen (Allentown, Pa.) 13-0; Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 7-0; Woodcreek (Roseville, Calif.) 16-2; Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) 15-4.

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.

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