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March 10, 2003In a well-rounded effort, Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, New York, pulled away from Kingston High School in the New York State Class "A" quarterfinals at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York, on Saturday.
After putting together an early 24-17 lead through the first, Mount Vernon was able to hold a comfortable advantage through to the half. Junior shooting guard Keith Benjamin's leaner, along with a turnaround by freshman forward John Mitchell and a transition bucket by senior point guard Bryan Browne pushed the Knights' lead to 32-24 with 6:11 to play in the third. Despite an early hot-hand by 5'9'' junior sparkplug Artavis Fisher, Mount Vernon, keyed by the interior play of Mitchell and 6'5'' junior power forward Dexter Gray, held a 44-35 lead at the half. Fisher paced Kingston with 11 points at the half, while Browne led the Knights with eight.
6'5'' senior guard Keith Simmons (right), who is headed to Holy Cross in the fall, came out on fire in the second half for Kingston. Simmons reeled off seven points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to help the Tigers draw to within four.
Just as Kingston was gaining some momentum, however, Mount Vernon tightened the screws defensively and began to generate points off of their "D". A Gray putback, Benjamin dunk, and a stick back by 6'4'' junior guard Shanty Robinson pushed the Knights' lead to 63-50 through three quarters. At this stage of the game, Mount Vernon's depth began to wear Kingston down, the Knights coming at their opponent in waves.
Kingston would draw no closer than 11 the rest of the way, despite Simmons' best efforts. The senior was masterful in his final high school game, knifing through the lane for buckets, sticking the three, and running the point. He finished with a game-high 25 points. Fisher added 19 for the Tigers.
For Mount Vernon, Benjamin and Mitchell were the high scorers with 16 a piece, while Gray added 12 points. While Benjamin and Gray are getting solid Division I interest at this point, Mitchell could potentially be the best of the lot. The 6'6'' 210 pound freshman forward is a lefty with a solid frame who runs the floor well. He can score with his back to the basket, hit the glass, and is solid in transition. North Carolina assistant Fred Quartlebaum, a New York guy himself, had been in to evaluate Mitchell earlier in the season.
Mount Vernon advances to the Class "A" final four in Glens Falls, New York next Saturday.