By RENALDO DORSETT
With a strong Bahamian presence in their starting lineup, the Sunrise Christian Academy Buffaloes continue to play like one of the most dominant teams in American high school basketball with their second early season tournament title.
The Buffaloes claimed the Signature Series title in the 41st Annual City of Palms Classic presented by Culligan Sunday night in Fort Myers, Florida.
The Buffaloes won 58-43 over Wolfeboro Brewster Academy out of New Hampshire to win the division comprised of “non-traditional” schools.
Lourawls Nairn finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead the Buffaloes. Nathan Bain had an off-shooting night from the field at 1-8, but had an impact on the glass with two points and 10 rebounds, while Travis Munnings chipped in with seven rebounds.
Bain and Munnings were key in Sunrise gaining a nine-rebound advantage on the boards, 35-27. They shot 47 per cent from the field and 42 per cent from three-point range while they limited Wolfeboro to 34 per cent from the field and just 13 per cent from three-point range.
In a closely contested game in the first quarter, the game featured four ties and three lead changes.
Wolfeboro led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter, but were held to just six points in the second as the Buffaloes took a 21-19 lead into the half.
The third quarter saw Sunrise move ahead decisively when they outscored Brewster 19-11 in the third period to take a 40-30 into the fourth.
The lead grew to as much as 15 in the fourth period.
In the semifinals, Sunrise blew away Barking Abbey out of the United Kingdom, 53-24.
Nairn finished with a side high 16 points and seven assists, Bain added nine points and Munnings finished with four points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
The Palm City Classic is a nationally renowned tournament which brings some of the best high school basketball players in America to Fort Myers.
ESPN and Sports Illustrated traditionally lead coverage of the event.
Nairn finished the tournament averaging 15.5 points and six assists per game.
The Palm City Classic wins came just two weeks after the Buffaloes won the 8th Annual State Farm Tournament of Champions in Peoria, Illinois.
Nairn was named the Team Works’ most valuable player and the tournament’s most outstanding player when he finished with averages of 20 points and six assists per game.
Bain averaged 17.6 points per game and Munnings finished as one of the top rebounders at 11.6 rebounds per game.
The win vaulted the Buffaloes, out of Bel Aire, Kansas, 10 spots in the national rankings.
The Buffaloes defeated several of the top high school teams in the country en route to winning and rose to No. 6 in the USA Today High School Sports “Super 25 High School Basketball” national rankings, following the State Farm tournament.
In their opening game of the tournament, Nairn finished with 19 points, six assists and six steals to lead the Buffaloes to a 76-43 win over St Louis Christian. Bain finished with 12 points while Munnings chipped in with 13 rebounds.
In their second matchup, the Buffaloes easily dispatched the No. 8 ranked team in the USA Today poll with a 68-45 win over La Lumiere. Nairn finished with 29 points while Bain added 13.
In the tournament finale, it was Bain’s opportunity to lead the Buffaloes as they claimed the title with a 71-32 route of Christian Brother.
Bain scored a game high 28 points while Nairn flashed his skills as a distributor with 10 points and nine assists while Munnings was again a force on the board with 14 rebounds.
In the pre-season, the Buffaloes were ranked No. 16 in the USA Today national rankings.
The Buffaloes finished 29-1 last season and claimed the KCAA AA finals. They were also able to avenge their only loss of the year to Prime Prep out of Dallas, Texas.
Sunrise finished first in their state class, rose to a ranking of fourth in the state and 134th nationally.
Nairn, the senior leader at point guard, is headed to East Lansing, Michigan, to join Coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans in the fall of 2014.
Bain is also headed to a Division I programme in the Fall 2014 after signing with Larry Eustachy and Colorado State Rams.
Nairn, Bain and Munnings were joined on the Buffaloes’ varsity roster this season by swingman Sebastian Gray, which brought the number of Bahamians on the team to four.
The junior varsity squad features two Bahamians, Edajh Fawkes and Daejour Adderley.
The Buffaloes roster is heavy with international players hailing from the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.
Senior centre Moataz Hosny is from Egypt, power forward Keanu Pinder is from Australia, centre Ruben Guerrero is from Spain and combo guard Vasilije Pusica is from Serbia.
Sunrise Christian is also the alma mater of Buddy Hield, the Bahamian guard who is currently the leading scorer at the University of Oklahoma.
“It started as a mission-minded thing for us,” said coach Kyle Lindsted in an interview with Jum Halley of USA Today. “We had a very strong basketball tradition locally and we developed some relationships because of our missions and it grew from there. We were taking good care of kids and putting them in a good programme.”