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Competitors take things personally, even in exhibitions.
Huntington Prep defeated Virginia Episcopal 78-71 in Lawrence County, Kentucky behind 31 points and nine rebounds from Miles Bridges, 13 points from Curtis Jones, 12 from Luka Petrovic, eight from Ivan Gandia, four from Micah Thomas and Boko Mupungu, and two each from Onuralp Bitim, Trace Young and Jonathan Kabongo.
Prep led a turnover-riddled half 38-31 with each team forcing and committing over eight turnovers because of great footwork and a steady diet of double-teams after pick and roll attempts.
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“We played a good game,” Bridges said. “We forced a lot of turnovers from a solid team.”
“I think we played very well,” Petrovic said. “We weren't really ready in the first half and that showed. In the second half we picked it up, especially in the fourth. We got more aggressive and played more as a team by passing the ball and screening harder.”
“I thought they played well in spurts,” head coach Arkell Bruce said. “We turned it on in the fourth quarter and picked it up defensively, like they know how. They still have things to work on though.”
Bruce created a chatting motion with his hands half way through the third quarter, letting his team know that conversing on the court can't cease.
“I thought the communication was awful,” Bruce said. “Honestly it was. A lot of miscommunication tonight just because of them not talking. A lot of non-verbal’s and pointing.”
With 25.0 secs remaining in the third quarter, the Irish led the Bishops of Virginia Episcopal 53-51. In front of his future head coach John Calipari, 4-star commit and Episcopal senior Sacha Killeya-Jones craftily forced separation around the top of the key for a three-point attempt, but an air ball commenced due to the stifling defense of Miles Bridges.
However, the Bishops regained possession then threw up a three with less than a second to go and gained just their second lead of the game at 54-53.
“I wanted them to take that personally,” Bruce said. “They were hyped up and jumping around because of a third-quarter buzzer shot. I told them to take that personally and play hard from that.”
The separation was led by Luka Petrovic, who stole the ball near mid-court and hit a runaway layup to tie the game at 58. He followed this up with a wide-open corner three, courtesy to the vision of Ivan Gandia, to break a 58-58 tie with 5:27 remaining in the fourth.
Miles Bridges added a three of his own, Petrovic had another clutch steal of the same fashion that ended in a free layup and Prep took off from there.
“I try to play defense like Kawhi Leonard,” Petrovic said. “I try to watch and learn from him. I go for the ball whenever I can, but I let my teammates trap them if I can't take it myself.”
“He's just way too fast,” junior David Bea Mulumba said.
Huntington Prep plays Memphis Prep (TN) at Berea College, Kentucky on November 29. Tip-off will be at 6:00 pm.