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December 30, 2006

Academy National Invitational: Saturday

HOUSTON, TEXAS - The books are closed at the 2006 Academy National Invitational and DeMatha and Gary Johnson helped stamp it shut. Rivals.com recaps the final day of action at the Aldine Campbell Center in our final report from the Lone Star State.

DeMatha earns National Division

It could not have been written any better. Two nationally renowned programs. Nearly a dozen Division I prospects. And a game that went down to the final minute to decide the winner of the National Division of the Academy National Invitational. DeMatha held off a pesky St. Patrick team to claim the exciting 57-49 victory in the final.

Austin Freeman scored 21 points to help lead the Stags but it was a team effort with three minutes to play to help seal the victory.

George Mason commit Isaiah Tate drilled a three-pointer with 3:53 to play to give DeMatha a five point lead. Peterson found Freeman under the basket for an easy score to give the Stags a 45-38 lead.

Freshman Byron Allen earned some serious hustle points with his sliding steal across the floor on a St. Patrick in-bounds pass with 38.7 seconds left to play and called timeout, adding some security to the DeMatha lead.

DeMatha had a great effort once again from Jeff Peterson, who has been sensational all week long, piloted the DeMatha attack beautifully. He's patient, smart with the ball and knows who and when to get the rock to. Peterson finished with 13 points and seven assists in the victory.

St. Patrick enjoyed another great game from Corey Fisher, who scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists. It was a great week from the future Villanova point guard and he fought tooth and nail to the finish.

Fisher did not have it easy as he had to earn everything he got because DeMatha played him chest to chest and physical throughout. Fisher was automatic from the line under 3:30 to play, sinking eight of 10 free throws in the second half.

Running mate Jeff Robinson, a Memphis signee, continued his great play in Houston with 18 points, seven rebounds and five steals in the defeat.

Dexter Strickland sparked an 8-0 run in the final minute to close the first half and cut the lead down to one, 24-23, in favor of DeMatha.

The super sophomore started off with a huge, athletic rebound with three opponents around him. On the next play, he skied high for a big time block. A pair of steals that lead to a Fisher three-pointer and an open court dunk helped the Celtics close out strong.

That stretch was his best at the ANI and gave Kevin Boyle's club the momentum going into the half. But Freeman was quick to erase that run with five quick points to start the half.

All Johnson in Texas Division championship

Gary Johnson finally got what he was looking for after four years. He and his Aldine teammates earned their first Texas Division championship at the Academy National Invitational.

Johnson scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 65-49 victory over Klein Collins. It was a vintage performance from the always active forward. He went to work on Klein Collins's big men and got whatever he wanted on the blocks. Watching Johnson play is like watching atoms crash.

After three straight ANI tournaments, Johnson earned what had escaped him three times prior to this year. Johnson couldn't help beam his trademark smile, flashing teeth all the way to his molars.

He should, he earned it.

Point guard Brandon Williams added nine assists and 13 points in the victory, capping off a strong week at the Aldine Campbell Center.

News & Notes

After playing an abysmal game against St. Patrick, Al-Farouq Aminu returned to his old form against Kingwood. The 6-foot-8 forward was active and played with a bounce in his step that he lacked on Friday.

Aminu finished with 17 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor. The athletic and bouncy four man scored from all spots on the floor and gave Kingwood headaches inside the paint and beyond because of his versatility with the ball in his hands.

Norcross finally had an answer on the perimeter in future Oklahoma guard Tony Neysmith. The 6-foot-4 guard nailed three three-pointers en route to 14 points while grabbing five rebounds. It was Neysmith's best game of the tournament and his hot perimeter shooting could not have come at a better time. He sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with less than a minute to play.

After dazzling in the first two games, Gani Lawal could only watch his team hold off Kingwood in the fourth quarter. The big man fouled out with three minutes to play. He struggled on offense, shooting just three of 12 from the floor and finished with nine points.

Kingwood had a great effort from Mike Singletary, as usual, and watched the future Texas Tech big man give Norcross fits inside. He scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the defeat.

All eyes on me

Coaches in the house included assistants from Louisiana-Monroe, Texas and Texas A&M.

Surprisingly, the ANI was not a hot spot for college coaches this week in Houston. There were only 13 schools represented and only one mid-major from start to finish.

Saturday's scoreboard

The Woodlands 72, Westbury Christian 59
Christ the King 65, Hastings 59
Yates 57, Madison 56
Rice 57, Rainer Beach 53
Bellaire 49, Strake Jesuit 42
Norcross 50, Kingwood 47
Texas Division Championship - Aldine 65, Klein Collins 49
National Division Championship - DeMatha 57, St. Patrick 49


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