|Sunday, January 26
James narrowly misses triple-double in win
AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James left his Hummer at home and rode the team bus to Sunday's game. He may learn soon if it was his last high school game.
James had 25 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to lead St. Vincent-St. Mary, the nation's No. 1-ranked team, to a 82-71 win over Akron Buchtel.
With his team leading by just five points entering the fourth quarter, James scored 11 points in the final eight minutes to help the Fighting Irish (14-0) survive one of their toughest challenges this season.
"We didn't play smart,'' St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce said. "It's probably the worst game we've played this year.''
On Monday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association is expected to end its two-week investigation to determine whether James compromised his amateur status by accepting a Hummer H2 sports utility vehicle as a gift.
OHSAA commissioner Clair Muscaro has spent two weeks gathering information. The car's base retail price is $50,000.
If the OHSAA strips James of his amateur status, Muscaro said the senior would be ineligible for the rest of the season and the school would have to forfeit games from the time he received the SUV.
Gloria James reportedly obtained a bank loan to buy the Hummer, which was shipped from California equipped with three TVs and computer game hookups.
She would not comment on the inquiry following Sunday's game. LeBron James was not available to reporters.
"I think everything is going to work out,'' Joyce said. "They (OHSAA officials) were waiting on some things, but now I think they have everything.''
James and his teammates appeared flat from the outset, perhaps because they've been blowing out teams lately. Joyce said the investigation may have been a reason for the sluggishness.
"It's not a major distraction,'' he said. "But let's face it, when something like this is going on, no matter how much you try to keep it from affecting us, it's still there.''
Buchtel's players weren't intimidated by the 6-foot-8 James or his teammates. With an 11-0 run, the Griffins pulled within 65-60 to start the fourth quarter.
James then went to work. He hit a soft runner off the glass, completed a 3-point play and drew a charge as the Fighting Irish went up by 10.
He made another short jumper, two free throws and closed out Buchtel by grabbing a rebound and stuffing it to make it 82-67 with 1:15 left.
Close games have been rare this season for St. Vincent-St. Mary, which beat powerhouse Oak Hill Academy by 20 points and routed schools from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and North Carolina during a national tour.
Its tightest game was a five-point overtime win against Columbus Brookhaven.
"I think Ohio basketball is definitely underrated,'' Joyce said. "It's not what you would call a basketball Mecca. You got New York, Chicago, Detroit. We've had great players, too, but it seems like people have forgotten about our great players.''