``I was mad when I first saw Laurinburg was ranked number one," said Hargrave's Isaiah Swann, the Florida State-bound guard who successfully made the transition to the point this season. "But then we took it as a challenge."
Despite a schedule that didn't quite stack up against that of NEPSAC Class A champion Winchendon (Mass.), Hargrave has earned the top spot in the Final Top 10 Prep Poll after finishing 25-1 with its lone loss coming against Bridgton Academy (Maine).
``We felt disrespected when the preseason poll came out," Hargrave 6-6, 210-pound forward Norm Plummer said. "We thought, after the first day we played together on Aug. 28, that we had everything. We expected to be number one and when we went to War on the Shore, we watched everyone and we realized we were the best team in the country."
Hargrave was tested in Delaware, but got past a tough, well-coached St. Thomas More (Conn.) and also knocked off Champlain St. Lambert out of Toronto, Canada. Plummer, who played at Brewster Academy (N.H.) last season and is headed to Dayton, averaged 17.5 points and 7 boards in the two wins while Swann scored 24 points against STM.
However, after an easy win over Coastal Christian Academy (Va.), coach Kevin Keatts' group suffered its lone setback of the season, a 88-70 loss to Bridgton at the Fork Union Invitational Tournament.
``Going into the game, I think we were a little cocky and didn't think we could lose," Swann said. "We were on top of the world, but that brought us back to reality and we started playing better together."
``That loss really re-dedicated and re-focused us," added Keatts, who made his return to Hargrave after a couple years as an assistant at Marshall University. "It showed us that if we didn't play hard all the time, we'd get beat. It made us a better team."
Hargrave proceeded to beat New Hampton (N.H.) by 50 points, roll past numerous college JV teams and also defeated preseason No. 1 Laurinburg, 85-84, in North Carolina. Plummer finished with 19, Stanley Burrell (Xavier) had 16 and Louisville-bound swingman Lorenzo Wade added 15 in the win.
The final test came late last month when Bill Barton's Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) club, arguably the top road warriors in the country, traveled to Hargrave. Wade had a team-high 20, big man Darian Townes (Arkansas) scored 19 and Swann added 14 in the 92-82 victory.
Plummer ended up second on the team in scoring (22.8 ppg) and first in rebounding (9.3 rpg), but four other players were also in double figures – Swann (23.1 ppg), Wade (18.5), Burrell (10.5), Emanuel Willis (10) and Townes (10). Swann also averaged 7 assists per contest while Townes put up 8.1 boards and a team-high 4.8 blocks per game.
``I couldn't even pick an MVP out of this year's group," Keatts said. "We really didn't know who was going to lead the team each game."
``None of us cared about stats," Plummer added. We just wanted to win and that's why we were so successful."