Opponents: IMG NIBC Invitational Preview
By: Steven Pham
Graphic by: Jon D’Angelo
Wichita, KS. - #15 Sunrise Christian Academy (13-5) travels to Bradenton, FL. for two conference games. Sunrise takes on #6 IMG Academy (16-4) on Thursday, February 2nd at 4 p.m. CST. Their second game is against Wasatch Academy on Friday, February 3rd at 5 p.m. CST.
Game #1: vs. IMG Academy (ESPNU)
This is a rematch of last month’s matchup where Sunrise won convincingly 77-61. IMG is seeking revenge as Sunrise has won all three NIBC meetings dating back to last season. Sunrise has always had IMG’s number and is looking to continue that winning streak against them.
In their first meeting, Bryson Tucker did not play and he is unexpected to play in the rematch. Blue Cain started hot in that first game and gave IMG early success. Sunrise made adjustments and slowed down Cain and that IMG offense.
Jamie Kaiser jr. has emerged as another scoring threat for IMG and is 4th in the NIBC in scoring with 14 PPG. Kaiser did not play in their first meeting and will be another area of concern for Sunrise. Sunrise’s Matas Buzelis is right above Kaiser jr. with 14.6 PPG.
Sunrise needs to play to their strengths and allow their defense to lead them to an easy transition offense. Sunrise played well in their first matchup and will need to replicate that to take down this red-hot IMG team.
With a win, Sunrise can potentially move up to 2nd place in the NIBC standings and get back on track in the back half of the season. This is a must-win weekend for Sunrise to stay atop the standings and rankings.
Game #2: vs. Wasatch Academy (ESPN+)
This will be the first meeting between these two teams this season. Wasatch is 7th in the NIBC standings and is a game and a half behind Sunrise. Sunrise won both matchups against Wasatch last year but the last matchup was a nail-biting 63-62 win.
Wasatch Academy is based in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, and is led by 2nd-year head coach Paul Peterson. Wasatch is led by R.J. Jones, who is ranked 50th on ESPN’s Top 100 rankings for the class of 2023, and ESPN’s 10th-ranked sophomore Isiah Harwell.
The rest of the roster includes; Jeremiah Johnson, Dustin Farrow, Chilaydrien Newton, Jerry Huang, Osiris Grady, Collin Murray-Boyles, Malick Diallo, Gabe Omoregie, and Augustine Ekwe.
Johnson, Murray-Boyles, and Jones are all top 15 in scoring in the NIBC. Johnson is 5th with 13.7 PPG, Murray Boyles is 7th with 13.1 PPG, and Jones is 15th with 11.4 PPG. Any Wasatch player can get hot at any given moment and Sunrise must contain all three scorers.
Murray-Boyles is leading the conference in rebounding on both ends of the court. He is close to averaging a double-double with 9.7 RPG. He is the x-factor in this matchup and can change the course of the game with his presence in the paint.
Sunrise will be tested this weekend and need to show up to keep their NIBC conference title hopes alive.