Sagemont 6-4 star swingman Prince Ali downplayed any talk of a shootout with five-star guard Grayson Allen in a blockbuster Class 3A state semifinal between No. 1 Providence (28-4, USA Today No. 27) and No. 2 Sagemont (32-0, No. 22 in MaxPreps) at the Lakeland Center on Tuesday.
“My mindset has been the same about this game,’’ Ali said. “Play basketball the same way and come out there with a W. Just play defense the way we have been playing all year.
“I’m looking forward to the team matchup more than the individual matchup."
Ali, a prized Connecticut recruit, however, might have to divert from that script, If Allen, a Duke recruit ranked No. 20 by ESPN in the 2014 class, needs a heat check early.
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As Coral Springs Christian discovered when Allen poured in a game-high 31 points in last year’s 3A state championship game, the 6-4 Allen is capable of going off at any time.
“Providence has a bonafide superstar in Grayson Allen,’’ Ross said. “He is a McDonald’s All-American and one of the top guards in America. We’ve played some really, good players. Grayson is definitely in that class. When Grayson gets going he is pretty much unstoppable. He is a special player.”
Ali averages 17.5 points in a balanced attack with Lance Crawford, Jordan Cooper, Joe Kirby and 6-11 UCLA signee Gyorgy Goloman. That balanced scoring attack has led the Lions to a 32-0 record but it might not be enough against the defending state champion Stallions.
This is where Ali comes into play.
More than any player on that roster, Ali has the athleticism, talent and competitive instincts to swing the outcome in the Lions’ favor.
Ali is capable of going off on one of his patented scoring surges and being a pest defensively to Allen.
What sets Allen apart from other big scorers is the need to impose his will on opponents. If Ali can match Allen in that department, even for one game, he could script the Hollywood ending.
“It’s a great storyline — Prince and Grayson going at each other,’’ Ross said. “They are both spectacular talents and both have had fantastic seasons. From a spectators standpoint it will be a heck of game to watch. From a coaching standpoint it is a little bit more grueling. Prince is a highly competitive kid. He is not going to back down from a challenge.”