McEachern’s boys basketball team continues to shine on a national stage.
The Indians won the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions on Saturday in Springfield, Mo., then traveled to Springfield, Mass., on Monday to defeat another nationally ranked opponent, Rancho Christian of California, 66-55 on ESPNU.
Sharife Cooper scored 27 points in the Rancho Christian victory and made his final five shots from the floor. He was MVP of the Bass Pro Tournament, during which McEachern defeated three teams, including Sunrise Christian of Kansas (ranked No. 15 nationally by MaxPreps) and Shadow Mountain of Arizona (ranked No. 12 by MaxPreps). Rancho Christian is ranked No. 18 by MaxPreps.
In the Bass Pro final against Sunrise Christian, Cooper scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game in regulation and a 3-pointer for the lead in overtime of the 50-46 victory.
“I wouldn’t want to take the credit,” Cooper told OzarksSportszone.com, which had a nice recap of the game. “It’s really a team effort. Everything my teammates did helped us get the win.”
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Jordan Divens of MaxPreps spoke highly of Cooper in his column Monday.
‘’The 5-star point guard appears to be the leader in the clubhouse at this point in the season for MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors as he continues to deliver in the biggest moments for the undefeated Indians,’’ Divens wrote.
Jason Jordan of USA Today added more praise of Cooper: ‘’Cooper is a playmaker extraordinaire with the ability to create for himself and his teammates and always ends up being the most impressive player on the court, no matter who he plays with or against.’’
McEachern is ranked No. 1 by Blue Star Media and No. 2 by four other national media outlets, including MaxPreps. Cooper isn’t the only outstanding McEachern player.
‘’McEachern is clearly in the driver's seat at No. 1,’’ Chris Lawlor, a senior writer for Blue Star Media, told AJC.com. Lawlor compiles the Blue Star Elite 25, which has McEachern on top.
“The Indians have won arguably the top two tournaments - City of Palms and Bass Pro TOC - this season,’’ he said, “and then went to Hoophall Classic on the heels of winning the Bass Pro TOC and beat a nationally ranked, quality team in Rancho Christian.’’
To win a national title, McEachern first must do something it’s never done – win a state title. Then McEachern likely would be invited to the GEICO national tournament and would have to win there.
‘’McEachern has a difficult regional and state tournament to navigate, but they are the top team and on a roll,’’ Lawlor said. “As for the GEICO, they would need to win the state title and then be in position to get one of the coveted eight bids. They can play with all those teams, and the tournament is played on a neutral court in New York.’’
Lawlor also spoke highly of McEachern’s point guard.
‘’Cooper is the engine that drives this machine, and he's a very special player,’’ Lawlor said. “McEachern has all the ingredients to win a national title: strength of schedule, quality of play from their home state, great coaching and high-end prospects. They are a fun team to watch and find ways to win in different ways.’’
McEachern is far from a one-man team, though. Forward Isaac Okoro is a four-star recruit who has signed with Auburn. He’s the consensus No. 1 senior prospect in the GHSA. Okoro had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Pro Bass final.
“It’s a blessing to win this,” Okoro told OzarksSportszone. “The teams that have won, and now we’re one of them? It’s truly a blessing.”
Norcross boys rout nationally ranked N.J. team
Norcross’ boys team, the Class AAAAAAA runner-up last season, got huge win last week, too. The Blue Devils defeated Roselle Catholic of New Jersey 75-55 in Springfield, Mass., in the same event that McEachern played in on Monday. Roselle Catholic is ranked No. 11 nationally by MaxPreps. Brandon Boston, a five-star recruit, scored 26 points. Norcross never trailed. Norcross is only 15-7 but has played a ruthless schedule and hasn’t loss to a Georgia team since Meadowcreek beat the Blue Devils 63-55 on Dec. 10 in a rematch of the 2018 state final. The two will meet again Feb. 1.
Westlake girls beat Buford
Westlake’s girls, the defending champion and No. 1-ranked team in AAAAAAA, played the No. 1 of AAAAA, Buford, and came away with a 58-51 win on Saturday. Westlake trailed by one entering the fourth quarter but improved to 19-0. Sophomore Raven Johnson scored 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Lydia Freeman had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Best games this week: Shiloh-Grayson (boys), Hillgrove-North Cobb (girls)
Fourth-ranked Grayson’s boys (20-2, 7-0) can clinch the No. 1 seed in Region 8 with a victory over No. 10 Shiloh (14-7, 5-2) on Friday. Fourth-ranked North Cobb’s girls (19-1, 5-0) play at second-place Hillgrove (14-6, 5-1) in Region 3, the most competitive league in the highest class. North Cobb won by only two in their previous meeting.