NEWARK — It was a high school game that featured about 10 future Division 1 players and two McDonald’s All-American finalists.
But in the end, Syracuse signee Tyler Ennis and uncommitted sophomore Isaiah Briscoe led St. Benedict’s, ranked No. 5 nationally by USA Today, to a convincing 77-62 victory over Cincinnati commit Jermaine Lawrence and Pope John XXIII.
With Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry watching, Briscoe went for a game-high 24 points and Ennis scored 21 as St. Benedict’s improved to 21-1.
“I think I played [well],” Briscoe said. “Me and Tyler, I definitely think we took over the game when we needed to.”
Playing his first game since committing to the Bearcats Sunday, Lawrence fouled out with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting and five rebounds.
Both Ennis, the reigning Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year, and Lawrence made the final ballot for the McDonald’s Game, with rosters expected to come out Feb. 14 on ESPNU. The game itself is April 3 in Chicago.
Freshman point guard Bryce Aiken led Pope John (11-6) with 19 points, junior guard Noah Brown had 14 and sophomore forward Moustapha Diagne added eight, and then picked up an offer from Seton Hall after the game.
Here are some recruiting and game breakdowns on a few key players:
BRISCOE RECRUITING UPDATE
After going for a game-best 24 points, Briscoe listed a slew of high-major schools, including Syracuse, Arizona, Florida, Baylor, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Miami and Virginia.
“No one’s in the front,” he said.
Rutgers coach Mike Rice and Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard watched Briscoe and St. Benedict’s end St. Anthony’s 83-game winning streak last Friday, and the sophomore said he would consider staying home to help build a local program.
“I would like to bring a program up, but going somewhere that’s already established is fine, too,” he said. “But I do believe in Top 100 players going to Rutgers and changing their program, of course I believe in that. And if it happens, I will join it. I will be a part of a Fab Five, or anything like that.”
Briscoe said he talks to other “people in my class” about “going to certain schools and things like that,” but “not necessarily Rutgers.”
Said St. Benedict’s coach Mark Taylor: “Isaiah’s going to have his pick of the litter when the time comes, but we’re a year away from that.”
LAWRENCE STRUGGLES IN FIRST GAME SINCE COMMITTING
In his first game since pledging to Cincinnati, the 6-10 Lawrence struggled against the best team he has faced since coming back from a hand injury last month.
He shot 3-of-9 for seven points and missed his first three attempts before scoring on a layup. He also had the ball stripped and stolen a couple of times. But he also grabbed five boards.
Lawrence’s mentor did not make him available to the media, leaving others to speak for him.
“He’s extremely athletic,” St. Ben’s coach Mark Taylor said. “He’s got great potential, in my opinion. He’s gotta work on his ball-handling and his left hand. He only goes right. We took away his right hand. Denzell [Taylor] did a great job doing that and we took charges every time he went to the right. And we got two charges on him. He’s gotta get a little stronger and he’s gotta work on his left hand, but he’s gonna be great.”
Said Pope John coach Jason Hasson: “He didn’t play up to his abilities today. He didn’t show what he can really do. He’s only been cleared for 10 days, and I think that showed a little bit tonight.
“He needs to be more strong with the ball, doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength. He’s a little loose with the ball, and when he gets bumped he gets even looser. So we gotta work on that tomorrow.”
Said Briscoe: “I do know that he’s a great player. He had an OK game, I don’t think he had one of his best games. But from my eyes I know that Jermaine is a great player. And he just committed so a lot of pressure was on. You never know what made him play like that, but I know that he’s a great player.”
Said Denzell Taylor: “I think he’s pretty good. He’s very athletic. He’s got a lot of talent. He can jump out the gym. He just needs to get in the gym, get his skillset dribbling, he’ll be fine at Cincinnati.”
Lawrence entered averaging 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 3.8 assists.
He made the final ballot for the McDonald’s Game but must play in 50 percent of his team’s games to qualify. Hasson said he will end up doing so by playing in 14 of 26.
“He’s one of the top 24 players in the country,” Hasson said. “I see him every day. You can’t judge him on this one game, but he’s definitely there.”
TAYLOR REMAINS COMMITTED TO ODU DESPITE FIRING
Denzell Taylor said he remained committed to Old Dominion after learning earlier Tuesday that head coach Blaine Taylor had been fired.
Denzell Taylor said he spoke earlier with interim coach Jim Corrigan.
“As everything right now, I’m still loyal and I’m sticking with it right now,” said Taylor, who scored six points in the game, including a vicious put-back dunk.
Denzell said he wasn’t necessarily shocked to see the coach get fired after posting a 2-20 record.
“I kind of seen it happening with the record,” he said. “I never thought it was going to happen so soon. I thought maybe during the end of the season.”
DIAGNE ADDS SETON HALL OFFER
Moustapha Diagne, a 6-9 2015 forward originally from Dakar, Senegal, continued to impress and picked up a scholarship offer after the game from Seton Hall assistant Danny McHale. Syracuse’s Autry also watched him, but the school hasn’t offered yet.
“I was excited when I know Syracuse was going to come and watch me play basketball,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity Syracuse coach coming to watch me. I want to go Syracuse or other good college.”
Diagne, who has only been in the United States for three and a half months, also holds offers from Cincinnati, West Virginia, Cleveland State, Oregon State, George Mason, La Salle, Rider and Towson.
He busted out a hook shot on several occasions in the game, and if he perfects that he could be an unstoppable force. He is already a big, strong, athletic kid with a good sense for the game.
“I usually work on it every day at practice with my coach to give a lot of good shots,” he said of the hook.
He said he grew up watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar highlights on the Internet in Senegal and that’s how he developed the hook.
“On the Internet,” he said.
Asked how much better he can get with the shot, Diagne said: “One hundred percent. I have a lot of work to do.”
Hasson said he’s scored 30-40 points with it already this season.
“He can shoot it either hand, baseline, middle,” Hasson said.
St. Peter’s picked up a commitment from 6-6 Mount Zion Prep (MD) F Rodney Hawkins, a source confirmed to SNY.tv…Seton Hall also offered 2014 Pennington (NJ) PG Kaison Randolph, a source confirms to SNY.tv…Missouri is the latest school to get involved with 2013 PG Emmanuel Owootoah of Cordia (Ky.), a source tells SNY.tv…Florida assistant Rashon Burno will watch 2013 G/F MiKyle McIntosh Monday, his coach told SNY.tv…West Virginia assistant Ron Everhart saw 2013 PG Petar Rusic of 22 Feet Academy today. Purdue, Mizzou and K-State are coming soon.