Midtown: Sports

Ravenscroft ready for national tournament

Madison Jones thought his high school career was over after Ravenscroft won the N.C. Independent Athletic Association 3A championship in late February. As a senior point guard, Jones, felt he accomplished everything he could at Ravenscroft: at least 1,000 points, a 1,000 assists and a championship ring.

But playing on national TV?

Well, Jones didn’t think it was possible.

That changed earlier this month when the Ravens were invited to play in the ESPNHS National High School Invitational championship this week, a single elimination tournament on the ESPN network of channels.

“I was excited when I found out because I thought the season was over after the state championship,” Jones said. “Not many people can say they’ve played on TV.”

The No. 7 seed Ravens (31-3) will face No. 2-seed Rockville Montrose Christian School (Md.) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

The tournament is being held at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md.

The field includes Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep; Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict’s Prep; Montverde (Fla.) Academy; La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere; Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely and Washington (D.C) Coolidge.

“It’s a great feeling to be playing with these guys one more time,” senior forward Quinn Billerman said. “Now we get to play with some of the best competition in the nation.”

Playing this late in the year is new for the Ravens.

Already, the team played more games this season than the previous three years.

Two of the Ravens, Michael Hutter and Garrett Bird, are missing games with the lacrosse and baseball team, respectively, to rejoin their basketball teammates.

The Ravens also had to adjust to going back to practice after having more than a week to relax after their postseason run. When the team and coach Kevin Billerman did get back in the gym, guard Anton Gill said the first practices wasn’t smooth.

“I remember us doing two drills and guys were pulling on their shorts,” Gill said. “We look a lot better now, and our goal is to be peaking by the time we get up there the same way we were before the state playoffs.”

Billerman has had the Ravens practice two times a week to prepare for the tournament. He said fundamentals were the most important thing the Ravens had to focus on before playing Montrose Christian.

“We would like to show people that this is an outstanding basketball state,” Billerman said. “Our team has accomplished quite a bit this year and we have a chance to accomplish more for our city and our state.”

The Ravens know they are facing a tough challenge in the first round. Montrose Christian (20-2) is ranked No. 11 in the latest ESPNHS national rankings, and is the defending tournament champion. The Mustangs feature Justin Anderson, who has signed to play at Virginia.

Gill has remembers watching Montrose Christian on ESPN a couple months ago.

“They are really good,” Gill said. “We’re definitely going to have to play well to beat them, but I think we can do it.”

The winner of the quarterfinal game will play the winner of the three-seeded Montverde against six-seeded La Lumiere Friday at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2. The championship game will air on ESPN Saturday at 2 p.m.

As nice as it is to get Ravenscroft some national exposure, the Ravens say they don’t want their trip to end Thursday. The Ravens have already won the Holiday Invitation tournament, their conference championship, and the state title this season.

Quinn Billerman hopes to add one more trophy.

“We proved that we’re the best team in the North Carolina,” Billerman said. “Now we get a chance to prove we’re the best team in the nation.”