With Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) capturing GEICO Nationals for the first time, there is a new No. 1 team in this season’s second-to-last FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com. GEICO Nationals results affected the Top 25 of the rankings this week, with the State Champions invitational (set for April 6-8) the only games remaining in the 2022-23 season.
Last season Link Academy, on the campus of Camp Kanakuk in Branson, Mo., was a new four-year program eligible for the FAB 50 for the first time. After starting No. 40 in the FAB 50 that season, the Lions surprised the basketball world by advancing to the title game of GEICO Nationals, where they lost to Montverde Academy of Florida.
After head coach Rodney Perry left for an assistant coaching position at Kansas St., it would have been easy for new coach Bill Armstrong to curtail expectations. After all, he was a new coach with a new crop of players taking on a tough national schedule. The exact opposite happened for a team that opened up No. 11 in this year’s preseason rankings, as the Lions took it one step further to put the program in position to earn their first FAB 50 national title. Link Academy, which entered the eight-team tournament No. 2 in the FAB 50, won its last game of the season, capturing 2023 GEICO Nationals with a dominant 73-55 victory over then FAB 50 No. 22 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.) Saturday afternoon in Ft. Myers, Fla. It was obviously the program’s first GEICO Nationals crown and it won three game over three days after entering the event as the No. 4 seed (despite being No. 2 in the FAB 50 for weeks leading up to the event).
“Our guys practiced extremely hard over the month of March to prepare for these three games,” Armstrong told Ballislife.com. “Their approach each day of GEICO was tremendous. They came and set the tone defensively with their energy, focus and toughness.
The Lions were in control of the championship game, taking a 35-25 halftime lead and extending it to 44-26 after starting out the second half on a 9-1 run. AZ Compass, which knocked off No. 19 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), 68-50 in the semifinals and then No. 8 Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) in the quarterfinals, 73-71, never got back in the game as Link Academy ended its successful campaign with only one regular season loss. That came against the same Montverde Academy program it lost to in last season’s GEICO Nationals title game.
The catalysts for coach Armstrong (who previously was an associate head coach at LSU) throughout the tournament was Baylor-bound Ja’Kobe Walter and junior guard Elliot Cadeau, who is committed to North Carolina. Walter netted a championship game-high 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 3-point shots. Tyler McKinley, a 6-foot-9 junior, also came up big with 17 points and six rebounds for Link Academy. Cadeau finished with 11 points and five assists, which gave him 29 for the event, breaking the event record (according to the record book published by Ballislife.com) held by Montverde Academy’s Andrew Nembhard, who had 28 in 2018 when the Eagles won the event and FAB 50 national crown.
Walter averaged 21.3 ppg in three GEICO Nationals games, while Cadeau averaged 9.7 ppg, 9.7 apg, and 2.3 spg for the team that moved up one spot in this week’s FAB 50 to the top spot.
Cadeau had 16 points and 10 assists in the 67-61 semifinal victory over then No. 17 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.), which moved up three spots this week after knocking off top seed Montverde Academy in the quarterfinals, 46-45. Tennessee-bound guard Cameron Carr came up big for the Lions in that game with 18 points, including 3-of-6 3-pointers. In the quarterfinals, Link Academy needed all of Walter’s 34 points (including four 3-pointers) to knock off then No. 16 Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.) in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed game, which was by far the best matchup of the quarterfinals considering the Panthers spent some time at No. 1 in the FAB 50 earlier in the season. Cadeau broke the single-game GEICO Nationals assist mark in the hard-fought win over Paul VI with 14.
They stepped their games up on the biggest stage which is what great players do,” Armstrong said. “When you have the best back court in the country you have a chance to win every game and they wouldn’t be denied this opportunity to win a championship. That’s as good a performance from a backcourt in tournament time as I have ever seen. They made every big play each and every time we needed one made. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for these two future superstars.”
The State Champions Invitational, which is set for April 6-8 at McDonough Arena at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is all that’s left for the 2022-23 season. The highest ranked team competing is No. 16 Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.), which has lost to No. 15 Beaumont United (Beaumont, Texas). Sidwell Friends will take on the winner of No. 45 Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah) and bubble club Yazoo City (Yazoo City, Miss.) on April 7. No. 38 Curtis (University Place, Wash.) plays No. 21 Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) with the winner set to meet No. 31 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) in the semifinals. The SCI championship game is set for 12 pm ET on April 8.
As for the rest of the teams that competed in GEICO Nationals, Montverde Academy gets credit for being the only team to hand Link Academy a loss and is down a spot to No. 2 this week. The Eagles also beat the Sunrise Christian Academy team it was upset by two out of three times this season. We decided to reward AZ Compass Prep for making it to the championship game and moved the Dragons up to No. 9 in front of new No. 10 Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) for avenging the loss in National Intersholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) play. Long Island Lutheran has to finish ranked higher in next week’s final FAB 50 in front of Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class 6A state champ and No. 13 Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) because of a head-to-head victory. Sunrise Christian Academy moves up three spots this week to No. 14 after losing to new No. 1 Link (for the second time this season) by only six points and for beating No. 2 MVA once. The Buffaloes are rated higher than No. 19 IMG Academy, whom they slit with, as the Ascenders were routed in their semifinal contest by runner-up AZ Compass Prep after defeating Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) in the quarterfinals.
The SCI will affect next week’s final poll, but it will be hard to top what Link Academy accomplished over Final Four weekend and over the course of the season.
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Updated FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com
(16th poll of 2022-23 regular season; Through games played on Sunday, April 2; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; ***Indicates season not complete)
|No.||Prev.||High School (City)||Record|
|1||2||Link Academy (Branson, Mo.)||27-1|
|2||1||Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)||23-3|
|3||4||Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas)||28-1|
|4||5||Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.)||33-0|
|5||3||John Marshall (Richmond, Va.)||28-0|
|6||6||Columbus (Miami, Fla.)||26-4|
|7||9||Central Cabarrus (Concord, N.C.)||32-0|
|8||7||Lake Highlands (Dallas, Texas)||34-3|
|9||22||AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.)||23-7|
|10||8||Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.)||23-3|
|11||12||Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.)||33-2|
|12||10||Camden (Camden, N.J.)||23-2**|
|13||11||Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)||30-3|
|14||17||Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.)||22-8|
|15||13||Beaumont United (Beaumont, Texas)||36-2|
|16||14||Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.)||27-4***|
|17||15||St. John’s (Washington, D.C.)||32-4|
|18||16||Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.)||31-4|
|19||19||IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)||17-8|
|20||18||Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.)||30-1|
|21||20||Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.)||22-5***|
|22||21||Centennial (Corona, Calif.)||30-4|
|23||23||Bellevue West (Bellevue, Neb.)||29-0|
|24||24||De Pere (De Pere, Wis.)||29-0|
|25||25||Cass Tech (Detroit, Mich.)||28-1|
|26||26||Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.)||38-4|
|27||27||Richmond Heights (Richmond Heights, Ohio)||29-0|
|28||28||Tualatin (Tualatin, Ore.)||24-5|
|29||29||West Linn (West Linn, Ore.)||28-2|
|30||30||St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)||26-7|
|31||31||Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)||26-6***|
|32||32||Oak Cliff Faith Family (Dallas, Texas)||31-3**|
|33||33||Kimball (Kimball, Texas)||33-2|
|34||34||Edmond North (Edmond, Okla.)||26-2|
|35||35||Warren Central (Bowling Green, Ky.)||36-1|
|36||36||Christ School (Arden, N.C.)||31-4|
|37||37||Lake City (Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho)||26-0|
|38||38||Curtis (University Place, Wash.)||28-3***|
|39||39||Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.)||30-3|
|40||40||Central Pointe Christian (Kissimmee, Fla.)||30-11|
|41||41||Reading (Reading, Pa.)||32-1|
|42||42||Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.)||27-4|
|43||43||Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.)||29-2|
|44||44||Durango (Las Vegas, Nev.)||21-6|
|45||45||Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah)||24-2**|
|46||46||Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.)||27-10|
|47||47||Moline (Moline, Ill.)||35-3|
|48||48||Kell (Marietta, Ga.)||28-2|
|49||49||Archbishop Hoban (Akron, Ohio)||26-3|
|50||50||Lincoln Park (Midland, Pa.)||30-1|
Dropped Out: None.
Bubble Teams: Andover (Andover, Kan.) 23-2; Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) 22-10; Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.) 35-2; Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 21-4; Bondurant-Farrar (Bondurant, Iowa) 24-0; Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.) 29-3; Briarcrest Christian (Eads, Tenn.) 32-3**; Broken Arrow (Broken Arrow, Okla.) 27-2; Brother Rice (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) 22-2; Carmel Christian (Matthews, N.C.) 28-4; Carter (Dallas, Texas) 31-4; Catholic B.R. (Baton Rouge, La.) 28-6; Centerville (Centerville, Ohio) 25-4; Cherokee (Canton, Ga.) 25-7; Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 23-5; East (Denver, Col.) 26-2; DME Academy (Daytona Beach, Fla.) 26-8**; Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) 29-1; Eagle’s Landing (McDonough, Ga.) 29-2; Ellison (Killeen, Texas) 38-4; Farmville Central (Farmville, N.C.) 30-1; Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) 25-2; Grand Blanc (Grand Blanc, Mich.) 25-3; Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) 24-6; Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 30-5; Hayfield (Alexandria, Va.) 30-1; Highland (Warrenton, Va.) 30-3; Highland Park (Topeka Kan.) 21-0**; Hoover (Hoover, Ala.) 31-4; Isidore Newman (New Orleans, La.) 32-6; Kapun Mt. Carmel (Wichita, Kan.) 23-2; Kokomo (Kokomo, Ind.) 24-5; Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) 21-10; McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) 23-7; Metamora (Metamora, Ill.) 34-2; Modesto Christian (Modesto, Calif.) 27-7; Muskegon (Muskegon, Mich.) 26-3; Myers Park (Charlotte, N.C.) 28-4; Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 26-5; North Mecklenburg (Huntersville, N.C.) 29-3; Northside (Roanoke, Va.) 27-1; Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) 26-4; Park Center (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) 28-3; Penn (Wishawaka, Ind.) 28-2; Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio) 25-6; Reidsville (Reidesville, N.C.) 26-1; Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.) 33-4; Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 32-4; Staley (Kansas City, Mo.) 30-2; St. Augustine (San Diego, Calif.) 28-5; St. Maria Goretti (Hagerstown, Md.) 27-7; Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 24-7; Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa) 21-5; Volcano Vista (Albuquerque, N.M.) 29-1; Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) 19-10; Wayzata (Plymouth, Minn.) 27-4; West Oaks (Orlando, Fla.) 21-9; West Ranch (Valencia, Calif.) 29-3; Yazoo City (Yazoo City, Miss.) 30-5***.
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 23 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