Top seed MMA aiming to capture National Prep title
By Jeff Nations
After six and a half hours on the road Monday, you can't blame Massanutten Military Academy postgraduate boys basketball coach Chad Myers and his team for being glad to be at their destination.
Myers certainly sounded relieved to be off the highway in a phone interview Monday afternoon, but make no mistake -- the Colonels won't settle for "glad to be here" status when they open play in the elite National Prep Championship series starting today at Albertus Magnus College.
"Last year we were very happy to be here," said Myers, who is leading MMA to the eight-team tournament for the second straight season. "It was a very big step for our program. This year we're capable of winning it."
Evidently, Myers isn't alone in that thinking. The Colonels enter the tournament as the top seed after spending much of the year ranked No. 1 nationally by a website devoted to prep school basketball. MMA (30-3) opened the season with 18 straight victories before dropping a 102-92 decision to fellow National Prep Championship invitee Fishburne Military School on Jan. 11. Against the tournament field, the Colonels have posted a 5-2 record this season.
"We got the No. 1 seed, which is good because it gives us time to rest," Myers said. "If we win [today] we won't have to play again until [11 a.m.] on Wednesday."
Winning today would be an accomplishment for MMA, which lost its only game in the single-elimination tournament last year to eventual champion Brewster Academy (N.H.). The Colonels face Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) in today's opener at 1 p.m. They are familiar opponents, having met at this same venue in the National Prep Showcase last November. MMA won that meeting, 85-75.
Other first-round pairings set for today are St. Thomas More (Conn.) vs. Hargrave Military Academy at 3 p.m., Brewster Academy against Believe Prep (S.C.) at 5 p.m., and Fishburne against Northfield Mount Hermon School (Mass.) at 7 p.m.
Should MMA advance to the semifinals, the Colonels will face the Fishburne/Northfield Mount Hermon winner at 11 a.m. The other semifinal will be played at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and the championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Myers thinks last year's experience, albeit brief, should help the Colonels. Only one current MMA player, D.J. Foreman, was on the team last season for the tournament and played sparingly as a seventh man. This year he's a starter.
"Last year we played six guys for the most part," Myers said. "This year we're playing nine or 10 guys."
Myers likes the way his team has been playing lately, with five straight wins since last dropping an 85-66 decision to Brewster on Feb. 15 in the New Hampton Invitational. The Colonels won their home First Bank Invitational Feb. 22-23, closing out with a hard-fought 101-97 victory over Believe Prep before wrapping up the season with a 104-75 win over the University of Charleston's junior-varsity squad last week.
"We had a really, really good game against Believe Prep in our tournament," Myers said. "I felt like we played that game against great competition like we need to play up here."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>