By: Steven Pham
Graphic by: Jon D’Angelo
Wichita, KS. - #6 Sunrise Christian Academy (9-2) comes into the new year on a 7-game winning streak. They will put that winning streak on the line in their first game back from break.
Sunrise plays #3 Montverde Academy and #8 IMG Academy at the La Porte Invitational. This is a big week for the NIBC with great matchups across the league and a potential shift in the standings.
Game #1: vs. Montverde
This game is on Thursday, January 5th at 4 p.m. and is aired on ESPNU. This is a battle between the top two teams in the NIBC and the winner will hold first place for the time being.
This will be the first of two meetings between these teams. Last season, Sunrise split the season series with Montverde. Their last meeting was at the La Porte Invitational last season when Sunrise won 71-61.
Montverde is led by head coach Kevin Boyle in his 35th season with the team. This year's Montverde team is loaded with talent as 11 of their 14 players are ranked.
They have five players on ESPN’s Top 100 list for the class of 2023. Those players are; #7 ranked Sean Stewart, #12 Kwame Evans, #32 Chris Johnson, #50 Marvel Allen, and #69 Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn.
Montverde also has four players on ESPN’ Top 60 list for the class of 2024. Those players include; #12 ranked Derik Queen, #15 Liam McNeeley, #23 Asa Newell, and #56 Curtis Givens.
They also have two players on ESPN’s Top 25 list for the class of 2025. Those two are; #2 ranked Cooper Flagg and #18 Bryce Heard.
I expect a low-scoring and defensive matchup between these two heavyweights. Both these teams take pride in their defenses and are two of the best in the nation.
Montverde has a ton of shooters and is the best 3-point shooting team in the NIBC. They are second in 3-pt FG percentage and first in 3 pt FGs made. They are also the best rebounding team in the NIBC.
Sunrise must locate all shooters and stay glued to them and keep Montverde off the offensive glass. This will be a chess match between these two teams and coaches. Let’s see which defense comes to play and which offense can prevail.
Game #2: vs. IMG Academy
Sunrise will take on IMG Academy on Saturday, January 7th at 5 p.m. on ESPN+. This will be the first of two meetings between these teams. Sunrise won both games last season and took down IMG to win the inaugural NIBC title.
IMG is looking for revenge and has been playing better basketball as the season has progressed. They are currently third in the NIBC standings right behind Sunrise and the standings could look a lot different after this weekend.
IMG is led by head coach Sean McAloon in his 5th season with the team. IMG has two players ranked on ESPN’s Top 100 list for the class of 2023. Those three are; #64 ranked Jamie Kaiser, and #92 Blue Cain.
IMG also has three players ranked on ESPN’s Top 60 list for the class of 2024. They are; #4 ranked Bryson Tucker, #13 Amier Ali, and #55 Khani Rooths. They have one player on ESPN’s Top 25 list for the class of 2025 and that is Jamier Jones.
IMG has tremendous talent but struggled early on in the season. They are finally putting the pieces together and stringing along wins in big games. They are coming off their best game and win of the season against AZ Compass.
Tucker has arguably been IMG’s best player this season and is second in the NIBC in scoring with 16.8 PPG. Sunrise has to force someone other than Tucker to beat them since IMG lacks depth and pure scorers.