By Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY
NORTH BETHESDA, Md. — The matchup between big men Keith Gallon of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and Mouphtaou Yarou of Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) didn't disappoint.
They put on an impressive display of scoring, especially inside with ferocious, crowd-pleasing dunks.
Gallon, a nimble forward at 6-9, 320 pounds who will play college basketball at Oklahoma, finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, and Yarou, who is headed to Villanova, scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
But the part of the game that doesn't necessarily please the crowd is sometimes part of the game that decides a winner: defense.
Oak Hill's pressure on Montrose Christian's guards prevented the Mustangs from smoothly running their halfcourt offense, especially in the first half, and Oak Hill defeated Montrose Christian 69-63 Friday at Georgetown Prep's Hanley Center.
ESPN2 televised the game, and Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg sat courtside, watching Oak Hill senior Lamont Jones, a future Hokie, apply defensive pressure, score 12 points and deliver six assists.
"Our guards played great defense and gave them trouble on the perimeter," Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. "Our guards were the key defensively to us winning the game."
Oak Hill, ranked No. 3 in USA TODAY's Super 25, improves to 38-0, and Montrose Christian, ranked No. 6, falls to 20-2 — both losses vs. Oak Hill.
"Early, we didn't have the intensity we should have had, which gave them a working margin," Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter said. "We were able to make runs but couldn't get over the hump. They're an outstanding basketball team."
Before the game, Smith said he planned to show Montrose offensive and defensive looks that the Mustangs did not see in Hawaii. Smith said there's so much film of his team available, he had to unveil a surprise or two.
The hounding pressure on Montrose's guards caused turnovers and disrupted the Mustangs' offense, preventing them from getting the ball inside to Yarou as much as they wanted.
"I'm a bigger guard, and they had a smaller guard," Jones said. "It's a bully mentality that you have to have. That's what we did tonight."
Oak Hill built a 15-10 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 25-14 with 5:33 left in the second quarter. "We were fighting an uphill battle from then," Vetter said. That cushion proved to be too much for Montrose to overcome.
But they tried. Montrose did a much better job of running its offense and feeding the ball to Yarou in the low post in the second half. Isaiah Armwood, another Villanova signee, and Yarou scored quick baskets to start the third quarter, trimming Oak Hill's lead to 31-28. That's as close as Montrose got. Not that the Mustangs didn't have their chances. It was 47-43 Oak Hill headed into the fourth quarter.
In the final eight minutes, Oak Hill had too much Gallon, a splendid transition game and solid foul shooting.
Montrose's Terrance Ross, one of the top juniors in the country, finished with 14 points, and Armwood scored 10 points. Duron Lamb, another outstanding junior, had 15 points for Oak Hill.
There is a chance these two teams could play each other again this season on the same court. The National High School Invitational is at Georgetown Prep April 3-5, and Smith and Vetter are expecting to play in the eight-team event.