By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 7, 2009
After slamming the ball through the basket with all his might despite being fouled, Keith Gallon stood under the basket, nodding his head with his tongue fully extended. Yes, the guy they call Tiny -- all 6 feet 9 and 290 pounds of him -- was having some fun.
With two of the nation's high school basketball titans doing battle and plenty of their peers and college coaches watching courtside while a crowd standing three deep lined the gymnasium, there seemed little question that Gallon, a California native headed to play at Oklahoma, was the best player or enjoying it the most.
Gallon tallied 20 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists, leading Oak Hill Academy to a 69-63 victory over No. 1 Montrose Christian last night before 1,500 at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda.
"I've never coached a guy that big who was that agile," said Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith, in his 24th season at the boarding school in southwestern Virginia.
There was halftime entertainment that included a 5-year-old who could dribble three basketballs at a time and a Washington Wizards mascot who used a trampoline for some acrobatic dunks.
The game also had plenty of gravity-defying highlights, including a few monstrous dunks by Montrose Christian forward Mouphtaou Yarou (24 points) and others.
Then there was Gallon, who looks like he should be suiting up to play on the offensive line in a football game. He once did, two years ago outside Houston, where he spent his first two years of high school. Then 360 pounds, his nickname was even more inaccurate.
"I didn't like" football, Gallon said. "Basketball was just my thing."
Gallon enrolled at Oak Hill for his junior year and in the past year dedicated himself to getting in better shape. He weighed 345 pounds last summer before cutting out fried foods, fast food and the sweets he loved so much, replacing them with grilled chicken and vegetables.
"My conditioning, that's my number one thing," he said.
Gallon remains a load to handle in the post, even for the 6-10 Yarou. And Gallon also showed the ability to take his game outside. Though he struggled a bit from the perimeter, Smith noted that Gallon had been the Warriors' leading three-point shooter until recently.
Gallon helped Oak Hill (38-0) get out to an early lead last night and it never trailed after the opening minutes. His reverse dunk midway through the second quarter made it 27-18. Later, midway through the fourth quarter, he filled the lane on a fast break, took a pass from former DeMatha guard Bryon Allen and dunked for a three-point play that gave the Warriors their biggest lead, 56-45.
"He does a great job using his size and also his skill," said Montrose Christian Coach Stu Vetter, whose team's only losses in 24 games this season were to Oak Hill. "He has size and skill and a feel for the game that you don't see for many guys that size."
Oak Hill 69, No. 1 Montrose Christian 63 Rematch, Anyone?: Both teams are expected to be invited to play in the inaugural National High School Invitational to be held April 3-5 at Georgetown Prep. The event will feature an eight-team boys' tournament and four-team girls' tournament. While it won't be a true national championship -- National Federation of State High School Association bylaws will prevent most public schools from being eligible to participate -- many are calling it a national championship event. Among the other boys' teams expected to play are St. Frances of Baltimore, Findlay Prep of Las Vegas and St. Benedict's of Newark, N.J. DeMatha and Gonzaga would be considered for invitations, but the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in December decided not to allow its teams to participate in the event. Riverdale Baptist, The Post's top-ranked girls' team, also is expected to play.