Four undefeated high school basketball teams will play in the GEICO Nationals this weekend at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Fla.
Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) hosts Paul VI (Va.) in the first semifinal on Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET, while Westlake (Georgia) will take on Fremont (Utah) in the second semifinal at 12:30 p.m. AND, both games on ESPNU. The winners will face off in the championship game Saturday at 10 a.m.. and on ESPN2.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a change in tournament format: only four teams are participating this year, compared to eight in 2019. (The boys’ tournament has 10 teams.) Different states have different guidelines for high school sports, so not all teams had a full schedule of games.
Lake Highland Prep, No. 3 in the espnW 25 Power rankings, went 19-0 during the regular season while No. 4 Paul VI went 10-0. Second-ranked Westlake was defeated 20-0 and 15th-ranked Fremont was defeated 26-0.
Although each team has had a relatively long break since their last appearance, this weekend will not only pit the top four high school programs against each other, but it will also be a showcase for some of the best prospects in the country.
In a company like GEICO, every possession counts, Paul VI coach Scott Allen said. We’ll do everything we can.
Here are some key players to keep an eye on for any team participating in the tournament this weekend.
PG Raven Johnson
Westlake High School (Georgia)
2021 espnW 100 Rating: 2
Signature c : South Carolina
Johnson was named Naismith High School Player of the Year. He is averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.
Westlake had a historic season by winning its fourth consecutive state championship. Johnson and teammate Brianna Turnage, a Virginia Tech alumna ranked 61st nationally. who finished first in the Class of 2021, are the only two players who have played on all four teams. They were also part of the last Westlake team to compete in the GEICO Nationals as freshmen.
They also have Tacia Latson, who is 39. Junior of the country. Latson, a dynamic combo guard who applies defensive pressure on the floor, has improved his shooting and finishing, averaging 23.2 points per game this year.
But make no mistake: Johnson is Westlake’s leader. It’s a three-level scorer who can reach the ring, shoot up or burn an opponent from the middle. She sets the tone for defensive pressure and leadership. And as she has proven time and time again, she is a winner.
Westlake High School point guard Raven Johnson, the second ranked player in the 2021 class, has signed with South Carolina. Brittany Graham.
F Nyla Harris
Lake Highland Prep (Florida)
2022 Rating espnW 60 : 11Commitment: Louisville
Harris is an active and agile attacker who has the glass for Lake Highland Prep. She is averaging 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. She went to Louisville in the middle of the season.
She is not the only candidate on the list. Harris and Alabama have contracted Kayla Blackshear, the No. 75 prospect in the 2021 class. Blackshear is a strong inside player who can challenge the defense in the high post and guard the glass on both ends. The Highlanders also have UCF-confirmed point guard Stefanie Ingram on their roster, which sets the tone.
Lake Highland Prep won the United Bank Holiday Invitational and the Florida 4A State Championship in December, thanks in large part to its frontcourt. Blackshear and Harris are a dynamic duo, which makes competition difficult.
W Lee Volker
Paul VI (Virginia)
2021 espnW 100 ranking: Three starsSigned with: Duke
Of all the teams in the GEICO rankings, Paul VI had perhaps the most unusual year. Their Panthers did not play on the official WCAC schedule and should have been on it. They played several home games and even played 40 minute games knowing they would be limited. You’ve been doing it since the ninth. February is no longer played.
Senior guard Isabella Perkins, who has yet to sign, leads the team with 16.8 points and is averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. But she can’t do it alone.
That’s where Volker comes in, an excellent perimeter shooter with solid fundamentals. The future Duke Blue Devil is averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season. She also has strong decision-making skills in the field and is versatile.
P Emma Calvert
Fremont (Utah) High School
2021 espnW 100 rating: 74
Signed with : BYU
Fremont will have to play without Tamea Gardiner, the country’s fourth-ranked 2022 player, because of an injury.
Fremont, however, will have the largest front row in the league with Calvert (6-foot-10) and Maggie Mendelson (6-foot-10), ranked 21st nationally.
Calvert is an experienced post player who is comfortable as a passer in the high post and a scorer in the low post with her excellent footwork. She led the team this season with 17.3 points, along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Mendelson is a mobile defender who handles the edge well and excels at a high level of play. She led the team in rebounding (8.9 per game), with 14.3 points and 1.9 blocks. Senior point guard Halle Duft recently joined UM Kansas City and leads the team with 5.7 assists per game.