Darris Santee threw up a prayer from the right wing that went in as time expired to give Marshall a 70-67 victory over Johnson and Aldine in the national division championship game at the Academy National Invitational.
Johnson was a man among boys for most of the game, but he didn't touch the ball in the final two minutes. Marshall's David Devezin (Texas A&M) tied the game at 55, but Aldine's Brandon Brown answered with his own drive through the lane with 45 seconds left.
Devezin missed a pair of free throws with a chance to tie the game, but the 6-7 ½ Santee, a junior, converted an offensive putback with 32 seconds to tie it at 67. Aldine failed to score and then after a miss by Marshall, Santee grabbed the loose ball and threw it towards the basket.
Santee finished with 18 points and Johnson, his teammate with the Houston Hoops, scored 26 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
In the title game of the national division, unranked Christ the King (N.Y.) held off Westchester (Calif.), 49-41, in an east-west coast matchup of elite teams.
Unsigned senior big man Akeem Gooding led Christ the King with 16 points while senior floor leader Chris Martin and junior guard Larry Davis added 10 for a balanced Christ the King squad, which also knocked off Westbury Christian and Arlington Country Day to win the title.
"We came here and played everybody," CK junior guard Larry Davis said. "We did what we had to and now we believe we're the best team in the nation. We don't have a star, but we play together and that gives us an edge. Teams don't know where we're coming from."
Scoreboard National Bracket
Montverde 42, Southern Lab 28
Arlington Country Day 59, Reserve Christian 56
DeMatha 77, Westbury Christian 59
Christ the King 49, Westchester 41
Bellaire 65, Cy Ridge 38
South Garland 69, Alief Taylor 56
Westfield 56, Kingwood 52
Marshall 70, Aldine 67
Class of 2005
Terrel Harris, 6-5, WG, SR, South Garland - Once again, Harris displayed an all-around game, scoring 17 points – some from the perimeter and some on drives – in a victory against Alief Taylor. The Oklahoma State-bound wing also had 7 boards and 4 assists.
Martellus Bennett, 6-7, F, SR, Alief Taylor - The outspoken unsigned forward, who plans to play both football and basketball in college, went off for a season-high 38 points in the team's 69-56 loss to South Garland. Bennett didn't have his perimeter game working this week, but he did plenty of damage off the dribble and in the paint.
Brian Hoff, 6-5, WG, SR, Arlington Country Day - The Patriot League schools should be all over Hoff, a big-time shooter who possesses good size. Hoff knocked down four trifectas en route to 16 points.
David Huertas, 6-4, WG, SR, Arlington Country Day - The Florida-bound shooter didn't have it going from the outside, finishing with just 7 points and missing all three of his long-range attempts. Huertas still needs to put it on the floor better and will have to become more consistent with his perimeter shot.
Derek Barnes, 5-10, G, SR, Westfield - He's small, but he's arguably the best outside shooter at the event. Knocked down all nine of his free throws en route to 17 points in the upset against Kingwood.
Class of 2006
Demond Carter, 5-9, PG, JR, Reserve Christian - The Baylor-bound guard shot it a lot and doesn't have a ton of help this year. He scored 24 points and had his moments, but it was Iverson-like as he was 8-of-25 from the field, including 5-of-16 from downtown.
Nic Wise, 5-10, PG, JR, Kingwood - The Arizona-bound floor leader fared better individually with 16 points, but he team came up short again – this time to Westfield. Wise thrives in an up-tempo setting where he can create for teammates, but that's not the system in place at Kingwood.
Trent Boone, 6-3, WF, JR, South Garland - One thing you can take to the bank and that's Boone playing hard. The rugged swingman showed he could knock down perimeter shots in addition to getting things done in the paint. Boone had 23 in a win against Alief Taylor.
Nigel Munson, 5-11, PG, JR, DeMatha - The floor leader was somewhat erratic, but he still managed the floor well enough to lead the Stags to the win. He made a few mental mistakes, but for the most part, he played with poise and solidified his standing as one of the more underrated point guards in the class. Finished with 11 points and a handful of assists.
Jeff Allen, 6-7, BF, JR, DeMatha - Once again, he crashed the boards on both ends and displayed a nice touch. However, he'll need to develop a low-post game – or at the very least, a go-to move in the paint. Thrives in transition with his athleticism.
Class of 2007
Kevin Branch, 6-4 ½, WG, SOPH, Reserve Christian – His strength is his athleticism, but Branch showed he can do more than just get to the basket. Knocked down three trifectas and also set his teammates up.
Gary Johnson, 6-7, BF, SOPH, Aldine - Brings a workmanlike approach to the game and rarely, if ever, takes a play off. Has earned a spot among the nation's elite with his play this week. Blocks shots on the defensive ends, goes to the glass on both ends and is extremely aggressive when he gets the ball in the paint. Despite an array of emphatic dunks, his most spectacular play was a pretty spin move in the lane that baffled Marshall defender Darris Santee.
Austin Freeman, 6-3 ½, WG, SOPH, DeMatha - The well-built shooting guard didn't have it going from long range, but he scored 12 points – with all five of his field goals coming on strong penetration. He's strong enough to overpower smaller guards and usually shoots it better from the perimeter.
Notes: Former NBA player Harvey Grant is an assistant coach at DeMatha and also has a son, Jerai, on the team. … The crowd favorite was clearly Gary Johnson.
Recruiting Tidbits: DeMatha's Munson (6-0, 160) recited a list that includes UConn, N.C. State, Clemson, Providence and Virginia Tech. … Munson's teammate, 6-7, 220-pound junior forward Jeff Allen, also lists Clemson and Providence – in addition to Syracuse, Georgia and Maryland. … Montverde senior guard Vytatus Balilus, a native of Lithuania, is looking at schools such as Fairfield, Citadel and Furman. … Westbury Christian 6-7 senior forward Sean Coleman has been offered by Birmingham Southern. … Cypress Ridge 6-1, 175-pound senior wing Nick Chestnut is a scorer who is leaning towards playing football in college. Smaller schools such as Texas State and Lamar have expressed interest in basketball. … Boone averaged 16 points last season and is getting interest from SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Florida State, Nebraska and St. John's. Boone will play for the under-17 Team Texas squad this year. ``He's an extremely strong," South Garland coach David Lay said. "He's got terrific work ethic and is making the transition from the five to the three and the two. He's so much stronger than everybody." … Freeman mentioned UConn and St. Joseph's as his co-leaders.