What was presumed to be the Andrew Wiggins showcase at the National High School Hoops Festival turned into an impromptu dunk contest. And it escalated pretty quickly.
After Huntington St. Joseph Prep High School, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation according to USA Today, took an early 5-0 lead over Riverdale Baptist, 6-foot-1 point guard Nigel Johnson got the aerial spectacle started with a vicious right handed dunk over Patrick Strake that drew a deafening roar of approval from the crowd. Eight second later, Johnson stole a pass and crammed home another one — this one a tad lighter — on a fast break. The place shook.
Thirty seconds later he lobbed an alley-oop to 6-foot-7 small forward Ronald Whitaker. Somehow it got even louder.
But the upset bid over the No. 1 team in the country with the No. 1 recruit in the country (Wiggins) fell short, as Johnson cooled and Riverdale Baptist lost in 53-44 in electrifying fashion.
“That whole first half we were leading and we were playing well,” Johnson said. “We didn’t really game plan for Andrew we just played straight up defense, basically. But we knew he was the No. 1 ranked player in the country, we knew he was going to be good, we just played him like we would play anybody else.”
For as much as it wasn’t the Wiggins showcase many expected, it can’t be said that he didn’t have his fair share of showtime. He still put on a crowd pleasing mini highlight reel complete with thunderous dunks, slick spin moves and a gravity-taunting array of finishes at the rim to finish with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
“He was just terrific, he was hard to stop,” Riverdale coach Louis Wilson said. “We tried to make an adjustment to slow him down at the high post but it didn’t work … he would make terrific moves, spin moves to get to the basket.”
While Wiggins and his teammates ultimately prevailed, it was a much different game than many at DeMatha Catholic expected. It wasn’t so much Wiggins’ virtually unstoppable offense that lifted Huntington over Riverdale, it was his shutting down of Johnson after the much smaller guard awoke the beast during that first-half string of dunks, lobs, threes, pull-ups.
Midway through the third quarter, Johnson found himself matched up with Wiggins, and there wasn’t much Johnson could do. Shots that normally would have made it over a defender were tipped up by Wiggins’ never-ending arms, lanes that would typically be open were clogged, and the rest of Huntington didn’t have to worry so much about playing help-side.
“He could put his hands down, and as soon as you go up, he could put his hands up and he’s right there,” Johnson said. “It was difficult trying to shoot over him.”
But if there’s a loss that a team, even one as talented as Riverdale Baptist, can look back and be proud of, it’s this one.
Said Johnson, “I feel like if we can keep up with them, we can keep up with anybody in the country.”
Huntington Prep 53, Riverdale Baptist 44
Huntington Prep 12 15 11 15—53
Riverdale Baptist 21 9 3 11—44
Huntington Prep (8-0): Andrew Wiggins 21; Dominic Woodson 12; Montaque Gill-Caesar 10; Moses Kingsley 8; Nevell Provo 2.
Riverdale Baptist (4-4): Nigel Johnson 19; Ronald Whitaker 6; Marguis Powell 6; Chinanu Onuaku 6; Robert Tyler 4; Khary Doby 3.