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'High' school

James' aerial assault silences opposing crowd

Posted: Sunday February 16, 2003 6:32 PM
Updated: Sunday February 16, 2003 11:30 PM
  LeBron James James only scored 22, but still showed why he'll be the top pick in the NBA draft. AP

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- LeBron James was short of his average 33 points per game on Sunday, but his acrobatics dazzled a sellout crowd that had to come through 10 inches of snow on the ground.

The nation's top high-school player said he was surprised people braved the weather to watch as he scored 22 points to lead No. 1 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary to a 73-40 victory over Kettering Alter.

"I think they wanted to come and see the No. 1 team in the country and also come and see me," James said after his last regular-season game. "I think our team put on a good show."

Before a crowd of 13,409 at the University of Dayton Arena, James unleashed five dunks and displayed a full arsenal -- alley-oops, one-handed and tomahawks.

Alter coach Joe Petrocelli, who has 684 victories in 899 games, had high praise for James.

"He's better than anybody I've seen, and I've seen a lot of them in 40 years," Petrocelli said. "I think people got their money's worth."

The 6-foot-8 senior forward is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft. And he showed it.

The Knights (11-7) played a two-three zone to try to slow down James and the Irish (17-1) with no luck. With the game tied at 2, St. Vincent-St. Mary went on a 10-0 run to set the tone for the game.

In that span, James scored four points, fired a crosscourt pass for an assist and blocked a shot, flattening 5-foot-11 Alter guard Jack Hilgeman in getting the rebound.

When Alter forward Andrew Stichweh blocked a James shot, the Alter student section began to chant "overrated."

But James silenced those fans a minute later when he stole a pass and unleashed a tomahawk dunk that had the crowd gasping.

During the third quarter, James seemed content to feed his teammates. But he did score on an alley-oop and a tomahawk dunk on a breakaway.

James' 22 points moved him to seventh place on the Ohio high school basketball career scoring list with 2,463 points. He passed former Middletown High School and Ohio State star Jerry Lucas, who had 2,460 points.

James scored 46 points Friday against Zanesville and had a career-high 52 points in his previous game, against Westchester of Los Angeles. But he seemed content to get his teammates into the act Sunday.

"The kind of person I am is just what I showed on the court today," James said. "I maybe could score 50, I maybe could score 100 points maybe in one game."

Junior guard Corey Jones scored 20 points, and after the game James presented Jones the MVP trophy that James was awarded.

"I think somebody played better than me," James announced to the crowd.

Alter forward Doug Penno, who scored eight points, spent much of the game trying to shake James and twice drove by him to the basket.

"It was a great challenge," Penno said. "He's a man amongst boys."

The Ohio High School Athletic Association had ruled the 18-year-old James ineligible for accepting two free retro sports jerseys worth a combined $845.

But Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge James Williams temporarily reinstated James on Feb. 5 and has scheduled a hearing for March 5 to decide whether to permanently block the association's ruling or uphold it.

Under the judge's ruling, James will sit out his team's final regular-season game against Toledo Scott on Feb. 23, but he can play in the playoffs, at least until the March 5 hearing.

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