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April 1, 2010

Rivers' 37 helps No. 18 Winter Park advance

MORE: Complete list of 2009-10 State High School Hoops Champions | McDonald's game recap

There hasn't been a team tougher to figure this season than Winter Park (Fla.) High.

It has one of the best juniors in the country - Austin Rivers is No. 8 in the Rivals 150 for the Class of 2011. And it has an impressive list of victories - it is the only team to defeat No. 3 Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's Prep and it has a victory over No. 6 Montverde (Fla.) as well as a Florida Class 6A state title.

But there are also five losses on the resume. It's the reason it began the National High School Invitational Thursday as the No. 18 team in the RivalsHigh Top 100. And the reason it has the most to gain this week.

The school got off to a good start in the quarterfinals, adding another victory over a Top 10 team by overwhelming No. 9 Arden (N.C.) Christ School, 82-72, behind 37 from Rivers.

With the victory, Winter Park advances to a semifinal game Friday against Montverde, a 51-49 winner over unranked Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian.

The other semifinal will feature Beckley (W.Va.) Mountain State Academy, a 59-53 winner over No. 7 Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill, and No. 8 Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, a 65-50 winner over Charlotte (N.C.) Christian.

The tournament is being played at Coppin State University in Baltimore.

The matchup of Winter Park and Montverde is intriguing because it's a rematch of Orlando area schools and the winner figures to finish in the RivalsHigh Top 10.

"It'll be interesting, we all know each other," Rivers told The Orlando Sentinel (Read its game story here). "We'll be going against a hometown team."

The schools both were able to enter the tournament after getting permission from their state association in Florida. No other state association allowed its member schools to play.

Montverde made the most of its trip. It scored the final five points with the game-winner coming on a driving layup by Kaleb Clyburn with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Montrose, a former Top 25 team, has struggled since the mid-season transfer of Terrence Ross but gave Montverde all it could handle Thursday.

The same could be said for Mountain State Academy, which avenged a one-point loss to Oak Hill earlier this season.

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