Prep Basketball: Northfield Mount Hermon ready for National Prep Championship tournament

  • Northfield Mount Hermon’s Prince Moses (34) puts in an alley-oop over Hoosac defender Milos Ilic (35) in the second half during last week’s NEPSAC Class AAA quarterfinal game at Forslund Gymnasium in Gill. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Northfield Mount Hermon’s Avery Brown winds back for a breakaway dunk against Hoosac in the second half during a NEPSAC Class AAA quarterfinal game last week at Forslund Gymnasium in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2020 9:10:42 PM
Modified: 3/9/2020 10:04:03 PM

Following a semifinal exit in the NEPSAC Class AAA tournament over the weekend, the Northfield Mount Hermon School boys basketball team turns its attention to the National Prep Championship, qualifying for the tournament for the 11th consecutive year. 

NMH has found success during its time competing with the best prep teams from around the country, going to seven final fours and four national championship games during the 11-year run. The Hoggers won the tournament title in 2013. 

Earning a spot in the first round of the tournament, the Hoggers will take on Spire Institute from Geneva, Ohio, today at 2:30 at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. 

“We want to play as long as we can possibly play,” NMH coach John Carroll said. “The National Championship is a great way to continue the season.”

Playing a lengthy season, the National Championship marks the final tournament the Hoggers (24-8) will compete in this season.

Despite the loss in the NEPSAC tournament, NMH heads down to Connecticut feeling confident it can go on a run. With the tournament taking place over a short three-day period, it’s all about getting hot at the right time. In an open field of teams, Carroll likes where his squad is at.

“We say all the time, we’ll be playing four games within 53 hours,” Carroll said. “Anything can happen. It’s who catches fire and who plays good basketball during that stretch of time. We feel we’re in as good of a position as anyone. This is the most wide open it’s been in our 11 years playing in this.”

Before falling to New Hampton in the NEPSAC quarterfinals on Saturday, the Hoggers were winners of eight straight, playing their best basketball at the right time of the season. 

The win streak included back-to-back wins over a talented Hoosac School squad, as well as wins over Proctor Academy (twice), Vermont Academy (twice), Bridgton Academy and Hillcrest Prep. Against New Hampton, NMH fell behind 49-32 at the half, but exploded for 47 second-half points in a rapid comeback that fell just short. 

“We’re in a good place going in,” Carroll said. “Despite the first half against New Hampton where we didn’t play well, the second half was our kind of basketball. Especially after the last two regular season games and postseason game. Our four games have been terrific.” 

The Hoggers played Spire (22-4) earlier this season, but the game wasn’t a true indication of how today’s matchup will play out.

Going into that meeting, NMH was down three starters and five players total to injury. Things only got worse when it lost two players to broken noses during the game itself in what amounted to an 88-71 loss in Springfield.

“The guys are hungry to get another crack at them,” Carroll said. 

While Spire doesn’t have the same national hype it had a season ago when its roster featured the likes of LaMelo Ball and and current Michigan State guard Rocket Watts, the team still has plenty of talent. 

Detroit native Aundre Pope is a player to watch for Spire. The 6-foot-11 big man, who sports an offer from UMass, offers length and scoring inside while the team has a plethora of outside scoring options. Point guard Raheim Moss is committed to play at Toledo.

“They’re terrific,” Carroll said. “They’re multi-positional and they’re skilled. They have guys who can really shoot the ball. These guys are all capable of having a good day.”

Though not fully healthy, the Hoggers will have the majority of their lineup traveling to New London.

For NMH, the offense goes through point guard Darius Ervin. The 5-foot-9 senior is leading the team with 18.2 points per game this season while also dishing out 4.7 assists per game. 

On the wing, senior Zach Taylor had put up 12.3 points per game this season while Harvard commit Sam Silverstein averages 8.8 points per game. Sophomore Avery Brown has scored in double figures in three of his last four games. 

The Hoggers have plenty of size inside, led by the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Prince Moses. The Louisiana native averages 12.7 points per game and 8.6 rebounds, and he figures to battle with Pope on the inside.

Having a mostly healthy team is something NMH has been waiting for all season. 

“We haven’t been healthy all year,” Carroll said. “This will be the healthiest we’ve been, but we’re still not fully healthy.” 

The winner advances to take on IMG Academy in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Ascendors are one of four teams to earn a first-round bye, joining Brewster Academy, Hargrave Military Academy and Putnam Science Academy. 

The Hoggers received good news on Monday, as 6-foot-2 point guard Sam Klores from New York City chose to do a post-grad year at NMH next season before moving on to play at Brown. 

Klores assures that the Hoggers keep their streak of sending a player to an Ivy League school alive, as the Hoggers have done so every year since 2006. 

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