Tournament Recap: GEICO Nationals
By: Steven Pham
Video by: Shane Zisk
Wichita, KS. - Sunrise Christian Academy completed a last-minute comeback against the #1 seed Montverde Academy 46-45. This is one of the biggest upsets in GEICO Nationals history.
Sunrise played #4 seed Link Academy in the semifinals and fell short of another comeback 61-67. Sunrise was down by 23 at one point and trailed for the majority of the game.
Quarterfinals: vs. Montverde Academy
Both teams started strong and played at a fast pace going back and forth. Both teams had tremendous ball movement and high-percentage shots. Halfway through the quarter, both teams tightened up their defenses and turned it into a dogfight for the rest of the game.
John Bol had an immediate impact on both ends of the court with a couple of dunks and his rim protection. Sunrise trailed 13-14 after the first quarter. The top two players on both teams were quiet in the first quarter.
Matas Buzelis got his game started in the second quarter with a couple of threes and got his teammates involved. Sunrise went on a small run in the second quarter to take a 23-20 lead at halftime. Sunrise was able to limit Montverde’s offensive rebounding and impact inside the paint.
Derik Queen started the second half aggressively and attacked the paint. He had six points in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Sunrise went on a run and had their largest lead of the game at six midway through the quarter.
Montverde came storming back in the final minutes of the quarter. Liam McNeeley and Cooper Flagg hit a couple of threes to retake the lead at the end of the quarter. Montverde’s 9-0 run gave them the 32-35 lead and momentum going into the fourth.
Montverde built on their momentum and extended their run to 16-0 with 10 point lead. Sunrise could not buy a bucket in the fourth quarter and was ice cold from three. Sunrise missed 12 of their last 13 threes midway through the quarter.
Layden Blocker hit a three to end the scoring and three-point drought. A couple of possessions after that Scotty Middleton hits a three to cut into the lead. Sunrise went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to three.
Sean Stewart got an and-1 on the other end and pushed the lead back to 6 with a minute remaining. Buzelis answered with a three plus the foul for a four-point play. Sunrise trailed by two and Blocker came up with a pivotal steal and found Middleton open down the court for a go-ahead three.
Sunrise was up by one with 25 seconds left and got one more defensive stop to secure a 46-45 win. Sunrise pulled off one of the biggest upsets in GEICO Nationals history over the #1 seed Montverde Academy.
Sunrise shot 16-48 (33%) from the field, 8-26 (30%) from three, and went 6-8 (75%) from the FT line. They had 28 total rebounds, 9 offensive and 19 defensive. Sunrise had 12 assists on 16 made FGs, 6 blocks, and 8 steals.
Buzelis had 17 points on 5-11 (45%) shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Middleton had 12 points on 4-12 (33%) shooting, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.
Semifinals: vs. Link Academy
It was a tale of two halves in this game. Sunrise started the game slowly and Link Academy could not miss a shot in the first half. Link hit five out of seven threes in the first quarter.
Elliot Cadeau was the best player on the court from start to finish. He had 10 points and four assists in the first. He controlled the pace of the game, found his scoring spots, and got his teammates going.
Sunrise could not attack the rim and was forced into perimeter shots in the first quarter. Five of their eight shots were threes in the quarter. Sunrise was sloppy with the ball in the first with more turnovers than made FGs.
Link went on a 14-0 run after the first and start of the second quarter. Corey Chest Jr had five consecutive points for Link to extend their lead to 22, the largest of the game. Sunrise was able to string together some stops and go on an 8-0 run to end the quarter. Sunrise was down 25-39 at halftime.
Sunrise was able to cut into the 14-point deficit in the third quarter. Blocker, Middleton, and Buzelis got their game going in the third quarter. Sunrise ran a press coverage that forced numerous Link turnovers that led to easy transition points. Sunrise closed out the third quarter with a 7-0 run and was down six going into the fourth.
Sunrise extended their run to 12-0 and were down by one early in the quarter. Middleton hit timely shots the entire second half and could not miss in the fourth. Cadeau nailed timely threes to answer Sunrise’s runs and kept a small cushion for Link. Bol had a crucial block that led to a Miro Little go-ahead three on the other end.
Sunrise found themselves up one after a 7-0 run toward the end of the game. Chest came up with two clutch baskets in the final minutes of the game to give Link a three-point lead. Sunrise would miss their shot on the other end and Cameron Carr put the exclamation point with an and-1.
Sunrise falls to Link 61-67 in the semifinals. Link moved on to play AZ Compass in the GEICO National Finals and won the finals. It was an amazing season for Sunrise with huge wins and memories the players, coaches, and fans will remember forever. Thank you Sunrise for a phenomenal season!!!
Sunrise shot 23-41 (56%) from the field, 7-16 (43%) from three, and went 8-9 (88%) from the FT line. They had 23 total rebounds, 6 offensive and 17 defensive. Sunrise had 10 assists on 23 made shots, 5 blocks, and 5 steals.
Middleton had 22 points on 8-11 (72%) shooting, 2 rebounds, and an assist. Little had 13 points on 4-8 (50%) shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a block, and 2 steals. Buzelis had 12 points on 5-9 (55%) shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.