Put two top-quality boys basketball teams like Madison Prep and University High on the court together, and you figure each has a 50 percent chance of winning.
Madison Prep coach Jeff Jones stressed a different type of 50-50 approach, and it paid big dividends as the Class 1A Chargers ousted defending 3A state champion University 60-56 to close out the Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday at Baton Rouge Community College.
“We’re two of the best teams in Louisiana,” Jones said. “Any time two teams like this play, it usually comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes and who gets the most 50-50 balls — the ones that either team can get. We didn’t play a perfect game by any means. But we hustled, and we won that 50-50 battle.”
St. John’s commitment Brandon Sampson led the way for Madison Prep, scoring a game-high 24 points, including two 3-pointers, in front of a capacity crowd.
Christion Thompson added 16 points. The Rhode Island signee scored six points in the final quarter for the Chargers (23-1), who were the 1A runner-up a year ago.
Thompson helped set the tone in the fourth quarter. A key point in the game came with just over five minutes remaining.
Thompson was holding the ball near the midcourt line when UHS defender DJ White came and slapped the court with his hands. Thompson responded by driving to the basket multiple times, including a layup on that sequence that gave MPA a 51-49 lead.
The Chargers never trailed again.
“(White’s play) challenged me,” Thompson said. “I wanted to show him, the crowd and my teammates I could do it. I knew I could get my teammates involved. It was about us wanting it more.”
Wayde Sims led University (20-3) with 17 points, including multiple dunks in the second half. Skylar Mays added 15 points, while Jalen Johnson (12) and White (10) also scored in double figures for the Cubs, who suffered their first loss to a Louisiana team this season.
“At times we did certain things really well, and a couple of things not well at all,” UHS coach Joe Spencer said. “It really gives us an idea what we need to work on. I was pleased with our defense for the most part. We just couldn’t finish a possession by boxing out and rebounding.”
Sampson and U-High’s Mays didn’t disappoint in the fast-paced first half. Sampson scored 15 first-half points to pace the Chargers. Mays had 11 for U-High.
It was a vintage performance by both. Sampson sank one NBA-distance 3-pointer in the second quarter and drove to the basket efficiently.
Madison Prep opened a 12-6 first-quarter lead. Mays, known for drives to the basket, countered. He scored on a layup just before the buzzer to cut MPA’s lead to 14-11.
The long 3-pointer by Sampson and a step-back trey by Thompson just over a minute later gave the Chargers a 24-16 lead with 4:58 left in the half. The Cubs answered with an 8-0 run. Mays followed a teammate’s miss with a layup that tied it at 24 with 3:51 remaining. But the Chargers led 30-27 at halftime.
White made his mark in the third quarter by hitting a 3-pointer that tied it at 36. Sims was a huge factor, scoring on two key lobs to the basket. His thunderous dunk gave UHS a 44-41 lead with less than a minute left in the quarter.
MPA answered as Sampson scored on a layup just before the buzzer. The Chargers led 45-44 when the fourth quarter began. UHS tied it twice early in the final quarter. Thompson’s drive through the lane with 5:01 left gave Madison a 51-49 lead, signaling a 6-0 run for the winners.
“We’re only in our fifth year of basketball, so we see this as a signature win,” MPA’s Jones said. “It’s big for our program.”