By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Paul VI – from Fairfax, Va. – played a familiar face Thursday night.
The Greenwood junior, who moved to Springfield from Washington, D.C. two summers ago, played Paul VI when he was an all-conference freshman at Archbishop Carroll.
Paul VI players Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels played Mohammed even more recently on the AAU circuit.
“We know how good and talented he is,” said Paul VI coach Glenn Farello. “He’s relentless.”
A loaded, turnover-forcing Paul VI squad got the best of Mohammed’s current team.
Roach led four Panthers starters in double figures with 25 points as Paul VI beat Greenwood 80-54 in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions quarterfinals.
On the strength of its full-court press, Paul VI forced Greenwood into 25 turnovers. The Panthers also grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.
“We had a couple of keys to the game that we didn’t achieve: turnovers and offensive rebounds,” said Greenwood coach Darren Taylor. “With their size, I was really worried about them just shooting it until they scored. But we fought hard and represented ourselves well.”
Greenwood kept it close early, trailing by one after the first quarter and 32-25 at halftime. Paul VI ultimately wore down Greenwood with its superior depth and full-court press.
“We know we’re not the biggest team, so we have to pick up the defensive intensity every game, no matter who we’re playing,” Roach said. “If we don’t, anybody can get us. Tonight, in the first half, we were struggling a little bit.”
Said Keels, who scored 14 and had five steals for Paul VI: “(Our press) is an easy way to have fun. When you’re going after it like that, it’s so much fun.”
Twelve Panthers played five minutes or more; none more than 24 minutes. Greenwood’s starters, by contrast, all played 24 minutes or more.
“It was a different kind of game (playing them as a freshman),” Mohammed said. “Over there, my previous team had bigger, stronger guys. We have good players here at Greenwood, but we’re just not as strong as (Paul VI). When you’re playing strong defenses like that, it’s tough.”
Mohammed led all players with 31 points and 16 rebounds, but also had 11 turnovers. He shot 11-for-24 from the field overall and had three assists.
Farello said Mohammed has a similar playing style to that of Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo.
“(Mohammed’s) obviously gotten a lot better since his freshman year,” Farello said. “He’s grown and continued to develop his game and body. Tremendous player.”
The outcome marks two straight losses for Greenwood (12-2 overall). The Blue Jays had their 29-game winning streak snapped last Saturday with a home loss to Class 1 top-ranked South Iron.
This weekend is also Greenwood’s first appearance in the Tournament of Champions.
“Playing in this, it’s an honor we got invited,” said Blue Jays point guard Grant Harper. “I get to be here with my school. We’re 100 yards away, playing nationally ranked teams. It’s an honor.”
Greenwood plays in the consolation round at 6 p.m. Friday night. Paul VI will play in a 9:30 p.m. semifinal matchup the same night.
Paul VI 80, Greenwood 54
Greenwood 13 12 19 10 — 54
Paul VI 14 18 31 17 — 80
Greenwood – Aminu Mohammed 31, Tommy Pinegar 12, Grant Harper 6, Ryan Gibbons 3, Kayden Stuckey 2
Paul VI – Jeremy Roach 25, Trevor Keels 14, Knasir McDaniel 14, Josiah Freeman 10, Jack Jensen 8, Luke Triggs 5, Andrew Gillman 2, William Page 2