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I-Prep wins small school city battle

After it was moved from Tuesday to tonight, I was able to get to just the second half of the big small school battle of the Yale Cup.

I saw International Prep at Grover Cleveland give a very impressive performance in a 79-72 win over host Occupational Training Center Middle Early College at Erie Community College's Flickinger Center (a lot of words in that sentence, a full-school-name edition 🙂 ).

I walked in with I-Prep up, 36-33 at the half, so I was pleased it was still a game. The Presidents took control with a 22-13 third quarter and then held off a relentless OTC team in the fourth.

I-Prep might have looked as good as I've seen them this year in the third. Good ball movement, good defense, good decisions. Chris Holland (25 points) did his thing as a distributor, three-point shooter and penetrator (not to mention a block or two and several rebounds on the other end). Kenny Pringle (21 points) was excellent in pushing the ball on drives and he hit two threes. Two patient possessions against a zone resulted in mini-baseline drives by Dartwon Brooks and Maurice Cheatom.

Kadeem Hillman (24 points), meanwhile, continues to be extremely impressive. The muscular, 6-5 senior has always had the ability to deliver powerful finishes (as I wrote after watching I-Prep's win over Tapestry), but this season he has worked at polishing what is rapidly becoming a devastating all-around game. He has developed a great touch around the basket, grabbing rebounds and banking in short jumpers, or posting up and hitting fadeaways. Twice while in the high post, he took an entry pass, turned and hit jumpers from the elbow -- shots with a nice arc and the soft touch he's displayed on those short putback shots he's been draining.

And just to remind everyone what those biceps can do with a basketball in transition: The fourth was highlighted by a Hillman dunk which was near-ridiculous. He caught up with a bouncing breakout pass that might have been out of reach for many big men -- reeled it in in the lane and took a couple of steps before delivering a major, two-handed rim-bender that left the crowd buzzing for several minutes. (I didn't have the iPhone cranking, but I believe YNN had a cameraman there -- it's worth checking out).

OTC was impressive in how they just came coming and coming -- that's how they played against St. Joe's despite losing two of their top players. All are healthy now, by the way, which is very good news for the Kats.

Actually, the Kats surged after Hillman's dunk. While most teams would have faded being down 11 points with 2:33 left and the other team having delivered a major blow like that, the Kats kept coming downcourt in waves and causing turnovers until they made it a 73-70 game with just under two minutes to play.

Hillman's 2-for-2 trip to the line started what would be a 6-of-8 free throw finish for I-Prep that helped them hold off OTC.

I-Prep certainly emphasizes its No. 1 standing in the small school poll with its victory while the relentlessness of OTC should keep them rated very high, I think.

Check out our basketball scoreboard for the box score as well as updates on all the action.

---Keith McShea

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