Dec 29, 2013
North Carolina recruit Joel Berry began his Triangle basketball career early on Saturday night at Holliday Gymnasium, leading his Orlando (FL) Lake Highland Prep Highlanders to a lopsided 74-54 win over the Kinston Vikings in the Shavlik Randolph bracket championship of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational.
With North Carolina head coach Roy Williams in attendance, Berry led all scorers with 34 points on 12-of-16 shooting. He was 10-of-14 from the free-throw line and also had seven rebounds in the win.
"We came up here on a mission to win the championship, and we were able to do that," Berry said. "Also, we were able to get better as a team. This is what you take trips for."
Lake Highland jumped to an early lead with nine first-quarter points from Berry, and Kinston scored just six points in the second quarter to give the Highlanders a 41-20 halftime lead.
The teams traded baskets in the second half, but Kinston could not force enough stops to make a legitimate comeback attempt. The Highlanders extended their lead to 30 points at one time in the third quarter, and held on to win big and secure the championship title.
"Tonight was a special night for Lake Highland basketball," said Highlander head coach Jason Vallery. "We hope that every game we get better, and tonight we definitely did."
Berry was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for his performance in Lake Highland's three HSOT Invite games and his scoring output that sealed the championship early for the Highlanders.
Malcolm Laws scored nine points for the Highlanders while Jay Henderson scored eight and Jaren Lewis scored seven. Vallery gave credit to Berry's supporting cast for helping Lake Highland seal the game early.
Kinston received 20 points and 11 rebounds from Brandon Ingram in the championship loss, but no other Viking player finished in double-figures. Kinston point guard Andrew Lopez finished the game with eight points. Both Ingram and Lopez were All-Tournament selections.
The Vikings did not give up in the second half despite digging a deep first-half hole. The team began the third quarter on an 8-0 run, and while they faced a 30-point deficit at one point in the period, the Vikings maintained scoring to finish 20 points down.
Lake Highland's championship came in the team's first-ever appearance in the Holiday Invitational. The Highlanders defeated the Clayton Comets and the Apex Cougars to advance to the title game.
"I think [the win] is huge," Vallery said. "The fact that we have suffered a few setbacks this season, to come in and win a championship--every championship is something to hang your hat on--the fact that we've won a championship now, we can look forward to future championships and say that we've done it before."
Kinston improved on its previous mark in the HSOT Invite. The Vikings competed in the tournament in 2012 and did not win a game.
"We're disappointed," said Kinston coach Perry Tyndall. "We wanted to give a better effort than we did tonight, it's just a bad half of basketball. But we'll bounce back."
Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT
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