Spalding senior captains Camille Calhoun and Torri Chestnut hope to star in the ESPN-televised National High School Invitational this weekend at Georgetown Prep’s Hanley Center, an event that begins Thursday with four boys’ quarterfinals, one involving No. 2 Montrose Christian.
Chances are, though, Calhoun’s and Chestnut’s most convincing performance this week took place in their home gym Monday, when they April Fool-ed Coach Bookie Rosemond into thinking that the teams’ seniors, including the Cavaliers’ five leading scorers, would be ineligible to play in the NHSI because they skipped school. They even wrote an authoritative note on school letterhead about the supposed incident.
After a few tense minutes that included Rosemond roaming Spalding in vain to find a school official to further explain what had happened, the Cavaliers could contain their laughter no longer.
Rosemond acknowledged that he’d been had, then got some payback of his own.
“He made us run,” Calhoun said. “I said, ‘Man, if we knew you couldn’t take a joke, we wouldn’t have written the letter.’ ”
Pranks aside, the top-seeded Cavaliers (29-2), who finished the season ranked third locally, are serious about winning the NHSI, particularly after bowing out with a first-game loss in the event two years ago.
The semifinals Friday pit Spalding against Florida 5A champion Dillard and Life Center Academy (N.J.) against Florida 8A champion Dr. Phillips. The winners advance into the championship at 11 a.m. Saturday. There is no consolation game.
In the boys’ quarterfinals, Montrose Christian opens against top-seeded and national No. 1 Findlay Prep (Nev.) at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Spalding now seems built for such an event. Five seniors average between 6.2 and 12.7 points, led by forward Jade Scaife, the Baltimore Sun player of the year. So the Cavaliers are experienced and balanced, and they thrive on team defense. Calhoun, Chestnut and senior guard Aleah Epps still have lingering disappointment from the 61-55 semifinal loss to Dr. Phillips two years ago.
Calhoun (Virginia Commonwealth), Scaife (UNC Greensboro) and forward Sierra Clark (St. Francis, Pa.) are all Division I signees who want to show well, and Chestnut and Epps are still trying to secure scholarships.
A luxury bus will transport Spalding from school to the team hotel Thursday. So even though the Cavaliers will be playing only 38 miles from home, they will receive the same treatment as the out-of-town teams participating in the fifth annual event.
“We don’t want to end our season on a loss,” Chestnut said referring to the 54-44 setback to No. 1 St. John’s in the Bishop Walsh Invitational final March 9. “We just want to prove that we’re one of the best teams in the area, and prove it on national television. It’s very embarrassing to come out the number one seed and lose in the first game on national television. I don’t want to relive that.”
Montrose Christian (19-4) also hopes to prove its mettle and erase its recent hisory against Findlay Prep. The two teams met in December at the Iolani Classic, and although the Mustangs held Findlay to a season low in points, it wasn’t enough to avoid a 40-35 defeat.
Ranked No. 25 nationally by ESPN, the Mustangs won the NHSI title in 2011 and advanced to the semifinals last year before falling to Montverde (Fla.), which enters as the No. 2 seed in this week’s event. Leading the way for the Mustangs are senior forward Mark Williams (15.8 points) and Baylor recruit Ishmail Wainright, whose diverse skills make him a consistent triple-double threat.
Quarterfinals — Thursday
Prime Prep (Texas) vs. Blanche Ely (Fla.), Noon
St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) vs. La Lumiere (Ind.), 2 p.m.
Montverde (Fla.) vs. Oak Hill Academy, 4 p.m.
Findlay Prep (Nev.) vs. Montrose Christian, 6 p.m.
Semifinals — Friday
Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Final — Saturday, 1 p.m.
Semifinals — Friday
Spalding vs. Dillard (Fla.), 10:30 a.m.
Life Center Academy (N.J.) vs. Dr. Phillips (Fla.), 12:30 p.m.
Final — Saturday, 11 a.m.
All games at Georgetown Prep