WASHINGTON – Chris Thomas had his shooting stroke working early, and once he really got rolling, the points just kept piling up.
The ballyhooed Princeton Day Academy sophomore guard scored 48 points to lead the Storm to an 80-66 victory over host Cesar Chavez School on Monday.
“No, it didn’t [feel like that many points],” said Thomas, who scored a career-high 50 earlier this season. “I was just knocking down shots that I can knock down, you know? I felt like I was in a rhythm and I felt like I couldn’t miss, so I was just feeling my shot.”
Thomas outscored Chavez by himself in the first half, putting up 27 points as the Storm (5-0) took a 38-25 lead at the break. He hit five 3-pointers in that span, but the highlight of the half was a one-handed dunk in transition off of a lob from fellow sophomore Chris Leach.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said with a smile. “We run that in practice, so I just had to go up and get it.”
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Thomas is ranked the No. 4 player in the nation for the class of 2013 by both ESPN.com and Rivals.com. The Colorado native transferred to PDA last year, but returns home in the summer to play his AAU ball with the Colorado Hawks.
“I feel more comfortable,” Thomas said. “[Moving last year] was hard you know? I had to get adjusted to everything. I had to get adjusted to friends, school, new people and not being around my family. But I got used to it, and I’m here. It feels good. There’s much pressure on me; like, right now I’ve got to lead my team. Last year I had to follow, but this year I have to lead my team, and I'm helping my team work so we can win games like these.”
Thomas more than lived up to the billing, as he knocked down six 3-pointers and had five dunks. He scored 14 of the Storm’s 15 points in the first quarter. Even with that efficiency, Thomas’ total came as a bit of surprise to PDA coach Van Whitfield.
“He had 48?” Whitfield asked before exhaling. “If he wouldn’t have missed so many foul shots he would have had . He was within the flow of the game, and he probably had a lot of assists, too. But wow, 48, that’s pretty good. … It’s very nice because he works so hard. He wants to win, and that’s what I love about having him.”
For a while, it looked like the Storm would need every one of Thomas’ points, as the Eagles (3-2) rallied to cut a 19-point deficit down to eight with 1:15 remaining. That was as close as Chavez would get, though. The Storm went 14–of-19 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“Chris is a phenomenal kid,” Chavez coach Malcolm Battle said. “He was having a hell of a game, but come on, let’s just lock in and play one possession at a time, one possession at a time. There’s no 16-point play, so let’s just chip away. I’m like, ‘If we can get it down to 10 at the six-minute mark, we’re in it.’ And to their credit, they got it down to eight. But like I just explained to them, that’s not the moment to have mental lapses. I think we got into the crowd – once again, young kids who haven’t played in this type of atmosphere – and lost sight of their man and they had two breakaway dunks and it goes from eight to 12.”
Leach scored 14 points for Princeton Day, while senior Stephane Manga – who finished with several nice dunks of his own – added 12.
Malcolm Clark led Chavez with 21 points.
“It was a good game; a hard fought game,” Whitfield said. “Caesar Chavez is an outstanding team, and they just play scrappy and tough, and we love playing them. I don’t think it was a letdown at all; I think they just played hard and they kept playing.”
PRINCETON DAY ACADEMY
Thomas 17 8-12 48, Leach 4 3-6 14, Manga 5 2-4 12, Cutler 1 2-3 4, McIntosh 1 2. Totals: 28 15-25 80.
Clark 7 7-11 21, Coleman 6 1-1 13, Preston 4 2-2 11, Shuler 2 3-4 8, Allen 2 1-2 5, Ingram 1 1-2 3, Long 1 3, Jones 1 1-3 3. Totals: 22 16-27 66.
Princeton Day 15 23 17 25 – 80
Cesar Chavez 13 12 15 26 – 66
3-Point Goals—PD 7 (Thomas 6, Leach) CC 3 (Long, Preston, Shuler). Fouled Out— None. Total Fouls— PD 20, CC 16.