STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTO BY WHITNEY JARRELD
Brentwood Academy’s leading scorer was out with an illness, so Marcus Fitzgerald filled the void.
The junior guard scored a season-high 32 points in a 61-49 win over The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) in the first round of the Next Level Hoop Fest at Christ Presbyterian Academy on Thursday night.
Randy Brady, a five-star prospect who’s averaging 24 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, missed the opener with flu-like symptoms.
“Man, I just knew I was going to have to lead more and keep my team motivated,” Fitzgerald said. “And everybody was going to have to step up, so I just tried to lead by example.”
Fitzgerald also led the Eagles (10-1) with seven rebounds and four assists. He hit 11 of 16 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and hit 7 of 10 foul shots.
“He’s starting to get better and I’m really proud of the progress he’s made over the last couple of weeks,” BA coach Hubie Smith said. “He had a really great offensive game tonight and made some great decisions down the stretch that I’m not sure a month ago he would have done.”
BA, the two-time defending tournament champion, will face Dunham (Baton Rouge, La.) in Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinal.
The lead changed hands six times in the first two quarters before BA pulled ahead for a 22-21 halftime lead. BA opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run and led the rest of the way.
“We played harder,” Smith said. “I challenged them at halftime. I felt like we were just kind of going through the motions. The way we practiced the night before was terrible. Then we started getting turnovers and started forcing bad shots.”
B.J. Davis added 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for BA.
The Eagles outscored the Royals 14-2 in second-chance points. Kam Summers led The First Academy (4-7) with 10 points, but he was the only Royal in double figures.
“(Fitzgerald) clearly got it going,” Royals coach Chris Mayberry said. “He got to the foul-line a bunch, got to the rim and he started hitting 3’s so that was obviously the difference in the game.”
Mayberry said the Royals missed a good opportunity by not taking advantage of BA’s slow start.
Smith isn’t sure if Brady will return to the lineup Friday.
The BA coach hopes post player Devyn Curtis, the only returning starter for the four-time defending Division II-AA champions, will play in his first game next week. He’s been rehabbing a shoulder injury sustained during the football season.
The Eagles took fifth in last week’s King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic in Fairdale, Ky.
Thursday’s other first-round games
Whitehaven 77, Ballard (Ky.) 51
Oak Ridge 61, Woodward Academy (Ga.) 55
Friday’s other games
Whitehaven vs. Oak Ridge, 6:30 p.m.
Ballard vs. Woodward Academy, 3:30 p.m.
The First Academy vs. CPA, 5 p.m.
Providence Christian Academy 56, Fairview 36
CPA 72, Hutchison 47
Friday’s second-round games
PCA vs. Hutchison, noon
CPA vs. Fairview, 1:30 p.m.
Photo from previous game.