Long Island Lutheran's VJ Edgecombe shoots over the outstretched arm...

Long Island Lutheran's VJ Edgecombe shoots over the outstretched arm of Cooper Flagg of Montverde Academy during the Bob McKillop Invitational at Hofstra on Friday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The 5,023-seat Mack Sports Complex arena at Hofstra had sold out quickly in anticipation of this main event Friday night at the Bob McKillop Invitational, this spectacle of two high school boys basketball heavyweights squaring off, No. 1 vs. No. 2 in ESPN’s national rankings.

But as it turned out, there was a very big gap between No. 1 and No. 2 on this night.

Top-ranked Montverde Academy of Florida rolled over second-ranked Long Island Lutheran, 90-58, in their EYBL Scholastic league matchup after beating the Crusaders by 14 in December.

“On given nights, sports show different things,” LuHi coach John Buck said. “If they played the Super Bowl three times, you might have three different results.

“We played them to a 14-point game down in Florida, and I thought we played kind of a B-minus game that night. So I still wish we could’ve given an A effort [this time] to see where we are against them in that regard, but I don’t think we showed our true competitive selves tonight. That’s disappointing, but I have to give credit to Montverde.”

Three senior McDonald’s All-Americans lived up to the advertising for Montverde, which now is 28-0 overall and 10-0 in the league after earning a 77-40 victory over Legacy Early College of South Carolina on Saturday night to complete its play in the invitational.

Liam McNeeley, a 6-8 Indiana-bound guard, nailed four three-pointers and scored 21 points to help power the win over Long Island Lutheran.

Cooper Flagg, a 6-9 Duke-bound forward who’s the top-ranked player nationally in the Class of 2024, contributed 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Flagg also helped hold 6-5 Baylor-bound senior guard VJ Edgecombe, another McDonald’s All-American, to 7-for-20 shooting and 17 points.

And 6-10 forward Derik Queen delivered 16 points and nine rebounds.

“They’re an outstanding team,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said of the Crusaders. “They’re well-coached and they’ve had a really good year. If we play them again in the national tournament, I would expect a game that can be competitive. We have a lot of respect for them. We know they’re capable of being in the game with us.

“But we also have six seniors. We have a lot of experience and a lot of balance on the team, and we really share the ball well. It’s going to take a special night for somebody to beat this team, but we know it’s not impossible.”

Montverde scored the first seven points of the game, let the lead slip to one and then took a 23-17 lead after the first quarter.

McNeeley hit one three-pointer and had five points in the opening eight minutes. He knocked down two more threes and erupted for 10 points in the second quarter. His first three of the period made it an 11-point lead and his second restored that 11-point lead.

LuHi got within 33-26 when Edgecombe’s steal led to a layup by Kayden Mingo, but the Eagles closed the quarter with a 14-4 run, including the final seven points.

Queen sandwiched baskets from in close around Flagg’s three from the left corner, and it was a 47-30 game at the intermission.

“I think honestly, our guys wanted it so bad that the emotional energy, we weren’t translating it into the game as much as we needed it to,” Buck said, “and that’s a growing point for these guys.”

The margin rose to 26 after three quarters at 67-41. The final margin was the largest in the wire-to-wire win.

“We’ve got to do better and just respond,” said LuHi’s Nigel James, a junior point guard from Huntington who scored 17 points. “But it was a great experience, great environment. People cheering. There was nothing like it.”

The Crusaders did respond Saturday night to go 1-1 in the invitational. They got 17 points from Mingo and rebounded with a 70-61 win over No. 8 Brewster Academy of New Hampshire. So they are 17-4 overall and 8-2 in league play.

Their goal is still to reach the High School Boys Basketball Nationals April 4-6 in Indiana and win first prize.

“Kind of all roads go through Coach Boyle’s team right now,” Buck said.

And if there is a LuHi-Montverde III in that tournament, will it be a different story for the Crusaders?

“For sure,” James said. “I promise you.”

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