Holiday Classic: Desoto 45, St. Joseph’s 42

Duke recruit leads Desoto to Holiday Invitational tournament title

CorrespondentDecember 29, 2012 

— Matt Jones of Desoto (Texas) High will have some fond memories of the Triangle when he returns to the area next summer to enroll at Duke.

Jones, a 6-foot-4 guard who is one of the top players in the nation, was named MVP of the Summit Hospitality bracket after his team topped St. Joseph’s (N.J.), 45-42, on Saturday night in the Holiday Invitational.

“It means a lot to me just to see the smiles on my teammates’ faces when we won,” said Jones, who scored nine points in the final. “Just being in North Carolina, the bragging rights you are going to have. It’s a great feeling right now. I am proud of my team.”

Jones, as he had in the previous two games in the tournament, made key plays down the stretch. With the Eagles (19-1) clinging to a 40-35 lead with four minutes left, he drove the lane for a basket and then made two free throws on his team’s next possession to keep the lead at five points.

St. Joseph’s wouldn’t go away, however. After a free-throw by Jones gave DeSoto a 45-42 lead with 26 seconds remaining, St. Joseph’s missed three attempts at 3-pointers in the final seconds.

“This has probably been the toughest three days we have had in terms of competition,” said DeSoto coach Chris Dyer, whose team is ranked No. 9 in the nation by ESPN. “This is a [heck] of a tournament. All three teams were great. I feel like I’ve been through a marathon.”

Jones sat beside his coach, smiling, cradling the championship trophy in his lap. It had definitely been a good trip to the Triangle for the No. 36-rated player in the country. His team had won against Hampton (Va.), led by N.C. State recruit Anthony Barber, in the semifinals.

Jones said he planned to enroll in summer school at Duke. In the meantime, he would remember the Triangle fondly.

“It was a great feeling to come down to North Carolina, which is going to be my future home, and win this tournament with my teammates, the guys I love,” said Jones. “It’s definitely a wonderful feeling.”

St. Joseph’s was led by 6-foot-11 junior Karl Towns Jr., the No. 3 player in the nation according to ESPN.com, who had 13 points and showed 3-point shooting range, going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.

“I’ve always worked on my jump shot. This is the first game all year that I have taken more 3s than 2s,” said Towns, who was 1-for-5 on 2-point attempts. “Today I was in foul trouble. I stayed outside more so I would be less susceptible to getting fouls.”

Towns, currently a sophomore academically, is in the process of advancing a grade level. He is a 4.3-grade point student, St. Joseph’s coach Dave Turco said. It is a matter of completing the paperwork to make him a member of the class of 2014.

Towns was recruited heavily by Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State. He said his choice of Kentucky was not about basketball, but about his future after the game.

“Duke really wanted me to come and N.C. State really wanted me to come,” Towns said. “I can’t say enough good things about Duke. N.C. State was definitely in the top four, but at the end of the day it came down to what I wanted to do in life. Kentucky offered me what I wanted to do as a major in life.

“I wanted to be a kinesiologist, and I think they are one of the best in the country at it. It was never about the basketball part, never about how many times I was going to shoot the ball. It was about what I was going to in life after the ball stops dribbling.”

In the evening’s final game, New Hampton (N.H.) faced Word of God for the Shavlik Randolph title.

In the third-place game of Summit bracket Barber had his best game of the tournament, scoring 25 points to lead Hampton to a 70-59 victory over Broughton.

Hampton, which shot just 26 percent from the floor in its semifinal loss to Desoto on Friday night, hit 53 percent of its shots against the Caps. Barber led the way, going 8 for 11 from the field including 4 for 7 from 3-point range.

Hampton coach Walter Brower said a change in his pregame routine may have helped.

“We just made shots today,” Brower said. “We haven’t been making shots since we got here. I actually made a change in our warmup. I told them to just shoot the ball.”

Barber, a 6-foot-2 guard who is rated the No. 14 payer in the nation by ESPN.com, continued to use his quickness to drive to the basket and complemented his acrobatic skills with solid outside shooting.

“We didn’t let it get to us,” Barber said of the semifinal loss. “We just played like we always do, played to win. It was a good tournament. Now we go back home and do what we have to do.”

Hampton is the defending AAA state champion in Virginia.

In the third-place game of the Randolph bracket, High Point Christian defeated Oxford Webb, 65-62, behind 22 points from Mike Kobani.

Isaiah Hicks, a 6-foot-9 forward who has signed with North Carolina, had 12 points for Webb. Tyrek Bevverly led the Warriors with 16.

In the fifth-place game of the Summit bracket, Waxhaw Cuthbertson topped Holly Springs 67-54 as Shelton Mitchell and Isiah Cureton combined for 34 points. Anthony Doyle had 14 points to lead Holly Springs.

Miller School (Va.) captured fifth place in the Randolph bracket, edging Apex 60-58. Junior forward Isaac Copeland had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Miller School.

Copeland, a Raleigh native who played at Ravenscroft last season, has been offered scholarships by N.C. State, Virginia and Boston College and is getting interest from North Carolina and Duke.

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