Montrose Christian, Oak Hill in Boys High School Basketball Showdown

Post reporter Jeff Nelson profiles Montrose Christian senior Mouphtaou Yarou, an African native who has needed just two years in the U.S. to establish himself as one of the best big men in the country. Video by Atkinson & Co.
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 6, 2009

Their last local meeting, three years ago, is considered one of the most memorable high school basketball games ever played in the Washington area. And the last time the teams played -- in the championship of a holiday tournament in Honolulu -- was the most exciting matchup the teams have ever played, according to one of the coaches.

So what to expect tonight when Montrose Christian, The Post's top-ranked area boys' team, plays national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy from a remote town in southwestern Virginia?

"The last four years, this has been the last game of the season, so that kind of makes it a bigger game too," Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith said before his team's 350-mile bus ride from Mouth of Wilson, Va., for tonight's ESPN2-televised game at Georgetown Prep. "Plus, the only loss for either team was when we played them last [a 74-62 double-overtime Oak Hill victory in the Iolani Classic title game on Dec. 22]. So in that sense, it's a monumental game for this season."

The schools are far apart and have many differences: Oak Hill is a boarding school, Montrose is a day school. Neither school has a football team. Both of their basketball teams compete as independents and their coaches are among the best known in the sport.

Oak Hill's players come from around the nation, often for one- or two-year stays to play a grueling season that starts in October and includes games in 10 states. Montrose Christian's top players usually come from the mid-Atlantic region and play a schedule that includes one top tournament or showcase per month.

Both teams are extremely successful. Oak Hill is 37-0 this season and ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today; Montrose is 21-1 and ranked No. 6.

"Many times we run into Oak Hill in those type of events," Montrose Christian Coach Stu Vetter said. "It's been a rivalry throughout the years. Oak Hill and Montrose have been ranked in the top 10 in the country more times than most teams are ever ranked. Both teams are known nationwide."

So are their former players. Consider the lineups from their game on March 4, 2006, at Coolidge High. Oak Hill, which entered 40-0, featured Michael Beasley, last season's national college player of the year at Kansas State, and four players now in the Atlantic Coast Conference: Ty Lawson (North Carolina), Nolan Smith (Duke), Jeff Allen (Virginia Tech) and Landon Milbourne (Maryland).

Montrose Christian was led by Kevin Durant (2006 All-Met Player of the Year, 2007 college player of the year, 2008 NBA rookie of the year) and also had current Maryland players Greivis Vasquez and Adrian Bowie, both of whom earned All-Met honors. It was Bowie who made the game-winning shot as time expired in a 74-72 victory.

"The whole starting five on both teams was probably some of the best to ever play," said Montrose Christian senior forward Isaiah Armwood, who was a freshman on the 2005-06 team and watched the game from the bench.

Armwood and teammate Mouphtaou Yarou, from the West African nation of Benin, have signed to play at Villanova. Junior guard Terrence Ross, who is from Portland, Ore., and freshman forward Justin Anderson are considered among the nation's top players in their respective classes.

Oak Hill has five players committed to Division I colleges. Senior guard Lamont "MoMo" Jones has signed with Virginia Tech and senior forward Keith "Tiny" Gallon with Oklahoma. Junior guard Bryon Allen, who played at DeMatha as a freshman, has committed to play for West Virginia.

Jones scored 40 points in the teams' first meeting this season.

"The nice thing about [playing Oak Hill] is you'll have Division I players on the floor," Vetter said. "I don't think either team has Kevin Durant, but Kevin Durants come along once in a lifetime."

As for where the game fits on the local landscape, Montrose Christian senior guard Dominic Milburn has an interesting perspective. He played his sophomore year at St. John's, when the Cadets were led by All-Met guard Chris Wright and played some remarkable games against teams in the highly competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

"Those were some great games we played up at St. John's, but that Oak Hill game [in December] was just up another level," said Milburn, who transferred to Montrose Christian for his junior year. "We look forward to playing them every year. It's going to be a big game because Montrose and Oak Hill always have good players. It can make or break a person's season."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company