The two highly rated big men in the class of 2008, who are committed to Ohio State and Cincinnati, respectively, were the marquee players of the final game of the National City Classic, and the two did not disappoint. Mullens scored 16 points, but Gates finished with 23 along with 12 rebounds to lead his Withrow squad to a 58-57 last-second win in front of a national ESPNU audience.
The two players were named the most valuable players of their squad, but the real MVP for Withrow might have been senior guard Anthony McBride, who followed his missed shot with a tip-in a second before the final buzzer sounded to give the Tigers the victory.
"I just saw Anthony driving, I saw him miss, I turned around and he was tipping it back in," Mullens said. "That was it."
The final shot capped an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. Withrow led 30-19 at one point in the second quarter, but Canal Winchester came back to take a 35-32 lead at the half and extended the lead to seven points after the fourth only to see the Tigers knot that quickly.
Withrow outscored the Indians 18-10 in the fourth quarter, and part of the reason was that Mullens was held in check during the final period. After being held scoreless in the third, Mullens scored just one point during the fourth. He finished with just 12 shots from the floor during the game, making five.
"They pressured our guards a lot more, and I had some open looks but our guards were pressured," said Mullens, who was right considering the Indians coughed up the ball 10 times in the second half. "That's something we can learn from."
Canal Winchester led 47-40 going into the fourth, but Withrow fought back and knotted the score at 49 on a corner jumper by Gates. The Tigers grabbed a 54-52 lead with around three minutes left when Gates scored again, but Canal Winchester scored three points in a row before Mullens made 1 of 2 free throws after a big offensive rebound with 1:23 left to give the Indians a two-point lead.
Mullens, who finished with 19 caroms to become the third future Buckeye to earn a double-double at the event, rebounded a Gates miss on the next possession, but Withrow took a missed jumper down and Gates tied the score at 56 with 45 seconds left.
Remon Nelson, who finished with a team-high 21 points for the Indians, made 1 of 2 free throws with 23.8 seconds left on Canal's next possession to set up McBride's heroics.
The first half was dominated by the big men, who took turns besting one another. Mullens finished the half with a double-double, earning 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while Gates had 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and even made a trey.
Mullens had 10 points in the first on 4-of-5 shooting, but Gates heated up in the second, at one point grabbing a rebound and slamming it home over Mullens. Later on the other end, Mullens scooped a shot over his head and into the net without even looking at the basket while absorbing a foul from Gates. The resulting free throw knotted the score at 32 and was part of Canal Winchester's half-ending 16-2 run.
"It was good to play against a guy like him because it's going to make me better and it's going to make him better," Mullens said.
Gates, 6-9, is a four-star prospect and the No. 23 power forward in the nation, while the 7-0 Mullens is a five-star center tabbed as the No. 2 player at his position by Scout.
The Indians, ranked No. 6 in Division II, fell to 10-2.