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February 13, 2009

Primetime Shootout hosts the nation's best

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The place to be for high school basketball this weekend is the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J. Five of the top 10 teams in the RivalsHigh 100, as well as many of tomorrow's college stars, will be on display in a two-day event.

No. 3 Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, No. 4 Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, No. 8 Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's, No. 9 Los Angeles Westchester and No. 10 Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian will take the floor in critical games that could determine the mythical national champion.

The marquee game matches St. Patrick (17-2) against Oak Hill (32-0) in the last of eight games to be played Saturday.

St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle said he believes if his team can knock off Lance Stephenson and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln on Friday night in the Nike Super 6 at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y., then topple undefeated Oak Hill on Saturday, it could challenge for the No. 1 spot.

"Obviously, if we were able to win both games this weekend, next week we'd be [No. 3] in the country," Boyle said. "If you take care of your county and state tournament, you'd be in position to be No. 1 if [No. 2] Mater Dei [and No. 1 Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep] lose."

St. Patrick features several players to watch, including North Carolina-bound guard Dexter Strickland and junior Kyrie Irving, the No. 4 point guard in the Class of 2010 and a rising star whom Boyle says could be the best guard ever from New Jersey.

The Celtics also feature 6-7 sophomore Michael Gilchrist, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2011.

Oak Hill, which faces New Jersey public-school power Linden on Sunday, counters with West Virginia-bound junior point guard Bryon Allen, Oklahoma-bound center Keith Gallon, Virginia Tech commit Lamont Jones and combo guard Doron Lamb, the No. 5 shooting guard in the Class of 2010.

On Saturday, both Hurleys, Bob and Dan, lead their teams into action in what should be interesting events.

Dan Hurley's St. Benedict's team won its first 19 games and was ranked No. 4 before falling in back-to-back games to St. Patrick and Mater Dei. The Gray Bees will face a Mountain State (W.Va.) Academy team that has two players committed to West Virginia in senior center Deniz Kilicli and junior point guard Noah Cottrill. Mountain State also has junior wing Shaquille Thomas, who left Paterson (N.J.) Catholic earlier this season and is the nephew of Knicks forward Tim Thomas.

No. 93 St. Raymond's vs Timber Creek
The weekend officially gets started at 10:30 am, but Saturday's Noon matchup of St. Raymond's (NY) and Timber Creek (NJ) will have the first of ten ranked teams showcased.
No. 79 Mtn. St. Acad. vs No. 8 St. Benedict's
St. Benedict's look to get back to their winning ways after losing two high profile games against Mater Dei and St. Patrick.
No. 9 Westchester vs Abraham Lincoln
Westchester is a Top 10 team from Cali., while Lincoln (NY) just fell out of the Top 100. Lance Stephenson lives for the spotlight.
No. 4 St. Patrick vs No. 3 Oak Hill
The best game of the weekend is the closer for Saturday night as two Top 5 teams square off. Both squads are loaded with talent. National Title implication are on the line in this one.
No. 13 Christ the King vs Elizabeth
The highest ranked team in New York, will take on a solid Elizabeth team out of New Jersey. McDonald's All-American nominee Sean Johnson leads Christ the King at the Noon tip on Sunday.
No. 10 Montrose Christian vs Shabazz
The last ranked team to play on the weekend is No. 10 Montrose Christian out of Rockville (MD) squares off against Shabazz (NJ). Lead by two Villanova commits Montrose can make their arguement for a Top 5 ranking.
This will mark the Gray Bees' first game since 6-8 Texas-bound junior forward Tristan Thompson was dismissed from the team Tuesday after an incident with Dan Hurley. "He was kicked off the team for public insubordination," Hurley said Wednesday by phone.

Thompson is the No. 2 power forward and No. 5 overall player in the Class of 2010. He is averaging 19.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. Asked if Thompson would leave the school, Hurley said, "That's not my concern. That's the concern of his family and that's the concern of the headmaster. I just know that I'm not going to be his coach and that's about it."

Now, the Gray Bees will have to rely more on Rice-bound shooting guard Tamir Jackson, Pittsburgh-bound forward Lamar Patterson and Texas-bound sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, who could follow Thompson to another prep school next year since both play for Grassroots Canada coach Ro Russell.

Dan Hurley won't be the only member of his family making lineup changes Saturday. Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley promised an overhaul after his No. 37 Friars fell to Long Island Lutheran on Tuesday. Achraf Yocoubou poured in a game-high 23 points for Lutheran in the win and Tobias Harris had a critical block in the final seconds.

It was first home loss in six years for St. Anthony.

"One of the things that needs to be done here is we're about time for a shakeup," Hurley said. "There's an undefeated JV team. Anybody observing this sees a total lack of poise. I'm playing seniors and we're not playing very well.

"This is getting a little bit mysterious. I think we'd like to start maybe working on next year."

Also Saturday, Stephenson and Lincoln meet Westchester. Lincoln has a busy weekend with four games in four days, including Friday's game against St. Patrick.

With Maryland coach Gary Williams looking on, Stephenson dropped in a career-high 50 points in Tuesday's win over Franklin Delano Roosevelt High in the Brooklyn Borough playoffs. Maryland has become a player for Stephenson, who now says St. John's, Maryland, Kansas and USC comprise his list of potential colleges.

Lincoln (14-8) has struggled in its showcase games this season, and it will be interesting to see how Stephenson and his teammates respond to the intensity of the moment.

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