Colonels aiming for hoops title at National Prep Championship

Massanutten Military Academy postgraduate boys basketball coach Chad Myers looks on during the second half of the Colonels' game against Fork Union on Jan. 24. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Shortly after Chad Myers returned to Massanutten Military Academy to coach the Colonels’ postgraduate boys basketball team last April, he joked that the team’s first order of business was to win a national championship.

At the time Myers had no players, and MMA’s postgrad program was just days into its resurrection after a two-year absence. Nearly a year later the Colonels have a chance to make Myers’ lofty year-one goal a reality.

MMA was selected as one of 11 teams to take part in the National Prep Championship at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut, this week. The Colonels open the two-day, single-elimination tournament with a 9:30 a.m. contest on Wednesday against Notre Dame Prep.

“This is what we’ve been aiming for before the season even started,” guard Charles Falden said last Friday. “We were in a group chat with Coach Chad before we got here and this is what we’ve been talking about for the longest time, so making it here is a blessing.”

This year marks the third time Myers has led MMA to the National Prep Championship in three seasons at the school, as he took the Colonels to the tournament in back-to-back seasons during his first stint with the program from 2011-13. MMA, which was the tournament’s No. 1 seed in 2013, fell in the opening round both seasons.

Massanutten is one of three Virginia schools in this year’s field, joining Hargrave Military Academy – last season’s national champ – and Fork Union Military Academy. The other eight teams hail from New England, including five from Massachusetts (Northfield Mount Hermon School, Commonwealth Academy, Cushing Academy, Notre Dame Prep and Tilton School), two from Connecticut (Putnam Science Academy and South Kent School) and one from New Hampshire (Brewster Academy).

Brewster (28-0) leads the list of top-five seeds that includes Hargrave, Northfield Mount Hermon, Putnam Science and Commonwealth (all get first-round byes) and will play the Massanutten Military Academy/Notre Dame Prep winner at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday.

MMA (26-6) is 2-5 this season against teams in the National Prep Championship field. The Colonels won two of three regular-season meetings against Fork Union, went 0-2 against Hargrave and dropped meetings with Putnam Science and Commonwealth on back-to-back days during the National Prep Showcase back in November.

“I think our guys know we can play with everybody we play,” Myers said.

“I think our schedule has prepared us because we played a lot of those teams. Out of our six losses, five of them are to teams in the field, so it’s not like we’ve had any bad losses.”

The Colonels enter the tournament with a 6-4 record over their last 10 games. They wrapped up the regular season at Hargrave’s First Piedmont Tournament in Chatham, where they picked up a 70-67 win over Fork Union on Feb. 24 before falling to Hargrave, 111-87, the next day.

Myers said the win over Fork Union was “one of the biggest steps” the Colonels have made this season.

“We scored 70 points, which is one of our lowest offensive outputs of the year, but we gave up 67. And down the stretch we didn’t really score. We kept getting stops and rebounds. That was huge for us,” Myers said. “Obviously if we shoot the ball really well we can play with anybody but finding a way to get stops and rebounds has been our challenge. That’s a good note going in.”

Falden, who is averaging 21.2 points per game, leads a Colonels offense that is scoring 96.3 points per contest. Bud Mack, a Manhattan College signee, is averaging 16.8 points, while 6-foot-9 Ole Miss signee Jamarko Pickett is averaging 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

MMA is shooting 47 percent from the field as a team and 40 percent from the 3-point arc.

Mack and Pickett both said defense and rebounding will need to be the biggest areas of improvement if the Colonels hope to have success in the National Prep Championship.

Myers added that the team may have to rely more heavily on its bench players should MMA make a run in the tournament, as the Colonels will need to win four games in two days to win the title.

“We’ve just gotta have guys that just find a way not to get tired. I know that’s hard to say and do but the reality is guys have to be able to fight through fatigue and all that stuff,” Myers said. “That’s what I’m kind of challenging them with right now is like everybody’s gonna be tired, other teams are gonna be tired. Who’s gonna be the toughest team and find a way to fight through the fatigue?”

Myers said the Colonels focused on situational drills during practice last week and emphasized execution on offense and defense in late-game scenarios in preparation for the tournament.

“I think everybody is mentally focused, ready to go up there and see what we can do,” Pickett said. “We’re going up there to win.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com