SPRINGFIELD, Missouri —Madison Prep wanted its chance to experience one of high school basketball’s biggest stages.
The Chargers received a rude welcome to the national stage.
Madison Prep fell to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nevada) 77-50 in the opening round of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions at JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University. Findlay Prep (19-1) led by just four points at halftime but stretched its lead to 27 points by the final horn.
Chargers (15-2) coach Jeff Jones said Findlay Prep, the No. 4-ranked team in the nation, according to the USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings, prevailed by outscoring Madison Prep 20-0 off the bench. The Pilots also took advantage of two of Madison Prep’s marquee players running into foul trouble.
“They just kind of wore us down,” Jones said. “We knew coming into this game we didn’t have the depth to match up with their depth, so once (Josh) Anderson got four fouls, Kobe Julien got four fouls, we just didn’t have confident players coming off the bench to match the productivity we lost.”
Findlay Prep went 21-of-31 from the free-throw line. P.J. Washington, a Kentucky commitment, and Lamine Diane each scored 21 points for Findlay Prep.
“The referees had nothing to do with it, (Findlay Prep) is good, they beat us up and down the floor in transition and just really wore us down,” Jones said. “Their length bothered us.”
LeBlanc led the Chargers with 15 points.
“The biggest thing I wanted to see from LeBlanc was just to see him come out here and compete, and he did that. He competed and played really well. I was proud of Josh LeBlanc,” Jones said.
Washington said Findlay Prep picked up its pace on both ends of the floor to outrun Madison Prep to the win.
“I feel like if we run and play our game, we can beat anybody in the country,” Washington said. “We just got easy steals and easy layups.”
Three more players scored in double figures for Madison Prep. Western Kentucky signee Josh Anderson had 12 points and a team-high six rebounds. Jharon Whitfield connected on 3-of-11 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, and Julien scored 10 points before fouling out in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Both teams left JQH Arena impressed with the thousands of fans who attend the Tournament of Champions.
“I’ve never played with a crowd like that, and I hope (Friday) is going to be even bigger,” Washington said.
Jones acknowledged the estimated crowd of more than 7,500 fans but said it didn’t impact the Chargers’ play.
“I think we handled it well. I was proud. We didn’t quit,” Jones said.