NEW FAB 50: Sunrise Christian Captures NIBC!

Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) solidifies its No. 1 ranking in the latest edition of the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com by capturing the inaugural National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) title. It was another big week in the DMV and this week’s highest ranked teams among four newcomers is No. 28 Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.).

By Ronnie Flores

Last season Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) got a taste of what the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) would be like when it went to a full conference slate in 2021-22. The Buffaloes played Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in the inaugural NIBC title game, a one off game between the two best teams affiliated with the conference. Montverde Academy won that game and beat Sunrise Christian three out of four times (including in the GEICO Nationals title game) en route to the 2020-21 FAB 50 national title.

In the preseason, we knew the Buffaloes lost tons of firepower off last year’s club, perhaps as much as any team in the country. We also knew in a relatively short period of time coach Luke Barnwell has built the program to a level where it will compete for the FAB 50 national title each season. Despite returning only one contributor (Kansas-bound Gradey Dick) we began Sunrise Christian No. 3 in the preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com.

Over the course of this season Sunrise Christian has proved its rankings worth, and them some, as the nation’s top-ranked team captured the first NIBC regular season title with a 9-1 conference mark courtesy of its 57-52 victory over then No. 3 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) last Saturday at the Metro Classic in New Jersey. IMG Academy entered the game with two conference losses and had an opportunity to win a co-championship. IMG Academy ended up 7-3 in conference play with two losses to the Buffaloes and a loss to No. 8 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), while Sunrise Christian split games with new No. 3 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in conference play.

Saturday’s contest was a game of runs and after a big run by Sunrise Christian at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, the Ascenders answered with a 10-2 turn to tie the game at 48. In the final minutes with the game tied at 52, the Buffaloes got a big time 3-pointer from Duke-bound Mark Mitchell to take control of the game and sealed it with a lay-up from junior guard Layden Blocker with 23 seconds left.

Dick finished with a team-high 16 points ,while Blocker came up big with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Houston-bound Jarace Walker led IMG Academy with 14 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

“I’m so proud of our group to win the inaugural NIBC championship Saturday outright,” Barnwell told Ballislife. “I’m not sure we would have been the first or second choice at the beginning of the year with losing all but one contributing player last season. Truthfully I’m not sure I believed if we could do it, but we just put our heads down and got after it. Our kids kept working and getting better throughout the year. They are a joy to coach everyday.”

IMG Academy was playing without Alabama-bound point guard Jaden Bradley, who is reportedly nursing a broken toe. Two night earlier, IMG Academy lost to La Lumiere, but stay in front of La Lu in the rankings because of their two victories over No. 3 Montverde Academy while at full strength. Montverde has done enough to be ranked in front of the Ascenders because of their split with Sunrise Christian Academy, with Duncanville (Texas) at No. 2 because of its head-to-head win over the Eagles. La Lumiere jumps up to No. 8 one spot in front of the Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) club it has a split with. Oak Hill Academy’s win over IMG Academy in December’s City of Palms Classic in Florida did not count in the NIBC standings.

Sunrise Christian doesn’t have too long to dance with glee over its conference crown, as it must quickly regroup for a February 11 showdown with No. 4 and unbeaten Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island, Neb. Many respected observers feel coach Rodney Perry’s club is easily the best team in the country not affiliated with the NIBC and some feel it’s the most talented club, period. Link Academy will get an opportunity to prove that on Friday.

“There’s no rest for the weary for us though,” Barnwell said. “We had six hours of delays Sunday, getting home at 2 a.m. Monday morning. We then turn around and play one the best teams in the country Friday in Link Academy.”

“We are very excited for the opportunity to play a big time program like Sunrise Christian,” Perry told Ballislife. “We respect their program and it’s a great opportunity to measure ourselves. They have great players and they play the right way. Sunrise Christian is very well coached and have great concepts, offensively and defensively, so there’s no secret why they are the number one team in the country and won the NIBC.”

Newcomers Make A Big Splash

This week’s highest rated newcomers are No. 28 Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.) and No. 29 St. Francis Prep (Fresh Meadows, N.Y.), respectively. Sidwell Friends is now the No. 2 ranked team from the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) behind No. 21 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), which defeated previous No. 40 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), 77-74 in overtime, and battle-tested St. John’s (Washington, D.C.), 81-75 in triple overtime. The Panthers are now one loss behind first place Bishop McNamara (Forrestville, Md.) in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) standings. So far seven WCAC contests have gone to overtime. Bishop McNamara, which has a conference loss to DeMatha, fell two spots in the rankings this week to No. 30 after losing a weekend non-conference showdown to Sidwell Friends, 52-46.

St. Francis Prep comes in right in front of Bishop McNamara and right behind defensive-oriented Sidwell Friends after recording a 61-56 win on Sunday over previous No. 19 Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) in an intense CHSAA showdown. St. Francis Prep has been on the FAB 50 bubble for weeks and looking for national respect, and knocking off Hayes (who has a split with No. 32 Archbishop Stepinac of White Plains, N.Y.) was exactly what the doctor ordered from coach Jimmy Lynch’s club to break into the rankings.

Junior (2023) guard Josh Pascarelli led St. Francis Prep with 18 points in its signature win. The Terriers (who have only lost to Westminster Academy of Florida) were playing without 2022 guard Chance Morrish, out with a broken wrist, but players such as 2022 forward Jaden Daughtry (12 points) and 2022 guard Latiek Briscoe (11 points) stepped up.

Out West, No. 5 Centennial (Corona, Calif.) and No. 13 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) are the top two seeds, respectively, in the CIF Southern Section open division playoffs. The CIFSS playoffs for the best eight teams are pool play format (two pools of four) with the higher seed hosting each game. Both teams remain undefeated against CIF competition and could meet in the CIFSS open division title game Feb. 25 or 26.

Sierra Canyon was able to move up two spots this week after winning an out-of-state showcase game with previous No. 11 Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), 67-64, before 10,000 fans at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. UCLA-bound Amari Bailey weaved through the lane and found 2023 guard Dylan Metoyer in the corner for a 3-pointer. which he knocked down at the buzzer. Bailey finished with 19 points while 2023 guard LeBron James Jr. had arguably the best offensive game of his high school career so far, knocking down six 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points.

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Updated FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com

(9th poll of 2021-22 regular season; Through games played on Sunday, February 6; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included)

No.Prev.High School (City)Record
11Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.)21-1
22Duncanville (Duncanville (Texas)24-1
34Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)19-4
46Link Academy (Branson, Mo.)26-0
55Centennial (Corona, Calif.)26-1
63IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)20-4
77Richardson (Richardson, Texas)26-1
89La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.)15-4
98Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)25-7
1010Calvary Christian Academy (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)16-2
1112Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)24-0
1213Camden (Camden, N.J.)14-2
1315Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)22-3
1414North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.)18-3
1511Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)26-1
1617Centerville (Centerville, Ohio)19-0
1716Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.)17-2
1818Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.)21-4
1922Weddington (Matthews, N.C.)21-0
2023Westerville South (Westerville, Ohio)17-0
2130Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.)18-3
2231Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)15-4**
2324Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.)23-0
2425Garfield (Seattle, Wash.)15-0
2536St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)26-3
2626Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.)16-4**
2727Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.)18-3
28NRSidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.)20-1
29NRSt. Frances Prep (Fresh Meadows, N.Y.)16-1
3028Bishop McNamara (Forrestville, Md.)14-2
3119Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.)17-2
3232Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.)16-3
3341New Hanover (Wilmington, N.C.)18-0
3433Liberty (Henderson, Nev.)16-3
3534Oak Cliff Faith Family (Dallas, Texas)24-4**
3637Glenbrook South (Glenview, Ill.)25-2
3735Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)13-4
3838Combine Academy (Lincolnton, N.C.)16-4
3942South Shore (Brooklyn, N.Y.)18-2**
4039Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.)19-5
4121Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.)26-3
4244Campolindo (Moraga, Calif.)21-1
4348York Prep (Rock Hill, S.C.)19-0
44NRHayfield (Alexandria, Va.)19-0
4545Durango (Las Vegas, Nev.)17-5
4647Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.)20-2
4746Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.)11-5
4849George Rodgers Clark (Winchester, Ky.)22-1
4950Westfield (Houston, Texas)24-1
50NRBooker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.)16-1

Dropped Out: Previous No. 20 Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.), No. 29 Simeon (Chicago), No. 40 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), No. 43 Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.).

Bubble Teams:  Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.) 18-5; Auburn (Auburn, Wash.) 19-1; Beaumont United (Beaumont, Texas) 26-3; Beecher (Flint, Mich.) 10-1; Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 13-8; Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 12-1; Brophy Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) 22-2; Carmel Christian (Matthews, N.C.) 21-3; Catholic Central (Grand Rapids, Mich.) 13-1; Chambers (Charlotte. N.C.) 16-5; Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 13-4; Chesterton (Chesterton, Ind.) 17-0; Christian Brothers (Memphis, Tenn.) 22-0; Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) 15-8; Damien (La Verne, Calif.) 26-2; Davis (Kaysville, Utah) 19-1; Del City (Cel City, Okla.) 15-3; DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 13-5; Fairmont (Kettering, Ohio) 17-2; John Marshall (Richmond, Va.) 13-4; Kenwood Academy (Chicago, Ill.) 21-6; King (Detroit, Mich.) 12-1; Kingfisher (Kingsfisher, Okla.) 17-1; Las Cruces (Las Cruces, N.M.) 22-0; Lawrence Free State (Lawrence, Kan.) 12-0; Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 13-5; Magnolia (Magnolia, Ark.) 19-0; Memorial (Tulsa, Okla.) 17-1; Milton (Milton, Ga.) 17-7; Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, Ariz.) 17-1; Mount Si (Snoqualmie, Wash.) 19-0; Mt. Vernon (Mt. Vernon, N.Y.) 13-0; Newton (Covington, Ga.) 19-4; Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) 10-3; North Hills (Pittsburgh, Pa.) 18-0; Omaha Westside (Omaha, Neb.) 19-1; Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.) 19-5; Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio) 17-1; Poly (Riverside, Calif.) 25-2; Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) 15-1; Reading (Reading, Pa.) 18-2; Richmond (Rockingham, N.C.) 19-1; Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 11-3; Simeon (Chicago) 22-3; South St. Paul (South St. Paul, Minn.) 18-0; Sunnyslope (Pheonix, Ariz.) 23-2; Staley (Kansas City, Mo.) 19-2; St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) 13-3; The Burlington School (Burlington, N.C.) 22-6; Varina (Richmond, Va.) 18-0; Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 18-2; Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) 13-9; West Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 15-2; Westlake (Austin, Texas) 30-1; Westminster (Town and Country, Mo.) 18-1; Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 19-4; Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) 17-9**; Williamston (Williamston, Mich.) 15-0.

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.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at ronnie@ballislife.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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