Special to ZAGSBLOG
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — With all the individual talent on the floor Wednesday night, the highly anticipated match-up between St. Peter’s Prep and St. Benedict’s Prep certainly did not disappoint.
Yet one player in particular, Veer Singh, stood out as he led his St. Peter’s Prep team to a 75-61 victory over the Gray Bees for the program’s 15th consecutive victory. St. Peter’s will go for its 16th straight win on Sunday against Our Savior New American at the Metro Classic at Kean University.
The 6-foot-6 2016 wing put his excellent shooting touch on display in the contest to finish with a game-high 27 points. He had four triples from behind the arc, but each one seemed to come from further and further away with the importance of each one growing as well. Singh scored 16 points in the second half to help his team pull away.
His full offensive arsenal was showcased as his outside shooting ability, which has brought up comparisons to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, haunted the Gray Bees on defense. He showed a deft and quick touch in the lane to avoid getting blocked by the lengthy and athletic St. Benedict’s defenders. Singh also had a thunderous put-back dunk in the first quarter to show off his own athleticism.
Singh also had plenty of help from his teammates Austin White, Jordan Whitehead, Jordan Harris and Nathaniel Pierre-Luis. Whitehead scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half while White tallied 10 of his 15 in the second half. Pierre-Louis, only a freshman, and Harris both played composed games against the intense pressure of the Gray Bees. Pierre-Louis scored seven of his nine points in the first half and Harris scored all six of his points in the second half.
To their credit, the Gray Bees (17-6) took some of the Marauders (19-2) best punches early on and stayed close for the duration of the game without 2014 point guard Jonathan Williams, committed to VCU. The trio of 2015 guard Kamar McKnight, 2015 guard Eli Cain and 2017 guard Trevon Duval scored all but seven of their team’s 61 points. Duval battled foul trouble early on with a couple charges called on him forcing coach Mark Taylor to keep his talented guard on the bench for an extended period.
McKnight helped weather an early run by the Marauders as he scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half. He repeatedly bullied his way to the basket and into the lane for floaters and lay-ups with just enough separation created to get his crafty shot off. In the second half, it was Cain who picked up the slack by scoring 15 of his 22 points in a similar fashion to how McKnight got his points.
Duval finished with 15 points and if not for the foul trouble, he may have had an even bigger impact on this game.
The Marauders played smart, patient basketball once the Gray Bees began to ratchet up the ball pressure and try some half-court trapping. They worked several backdoor cuts for lay-ups and even if the first shot was blocked or missed, they retrieved the offensive rebound for second chance points.
“Letting the play mature, it’s not all about going 100 miles an hour,” Singh said. “You’ve got to read passing lanes like at the start of the second half. [I] Waited. I knew Austin was going to be open [on the backdoor cut to the rim for a lay-up]. I knew it was going to be open. You’ve just got to be patient. As soon as he goes, just let it go and don’t think about it.”
Taylor talked about Singh’s night against his team’s defense after the game.
“He shot the ball real well so we’ve got to close out better,” he said. “[It] seems like that’s happened a lot to us lately. People are making too many threes on us, but he played really well. He had a good game.”
St. Peter’s Prep coach Todd Decker offered his thoughts to SNY.tv on this game and his team’s improvement this season.
“I think this [St. Peter’s Prep’s gym] is an unbelievable environment for high school basketball,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Taylor and his program and their school. We’re trying to be an elite team and in doing so, you have to be able to play elite teams and beat them. I’m very proud of my kids and how well we played together. This just showed our maturity as a team. In the beginning of the season in bigger games, we played too much one-on-one and now they finally realize, in bigger games, you’ve got to play off each other. You’ve got to make your teammates that much better. I think they like the results in our last two big games so I hope they keep playing that way.”
At least one college coach compared Singh, who holds offers from several schools, including Creighton, Rutgers, Villanova, Seton Hall, Oregon State, Cincinnati, Princeton and Penn State, to McDermott, the Wooden Award favorite.
“I think that’s unfair to comment on a sophomore in high school to somebody that might be the best player in all of college basketball,” Decker said. “I can see some of the similarities to his game in a lot of people. No doubt about it. He’s just continue to work every day and get better and I think the rest of it will take care of itself.
Singh mentioned McDermott as someone whose game he looks up to and called it “a heck of a compliment.”
“I just saw him,” he said. “He came to St. Joe’s. He’s a great guy and I got to talk to him for a little bit. Creighton offered so it’s almost like following in his footsteps. I mean, wow, to be compared to somebody of that standard who’s a potential NBA lottery pick, All-American, that’s big.”
Photo: Jersey Journal