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December 17, 2009

Sullinger, No. 7 Northland down No. 1 Findlay

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Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for RivalsHigh.com. Send him a question or comment at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him at twitter.com/rivalshigh.

Henderson (Nevada) Findlay Prep went wire-to-wire last season as the top-ranked team in the RivalsHigh Top 100.

This season, it couldn't make it to the new year.

In a stunning upset, No. 7 Columbus (Ohio) Northland downed preseason No. 1 Findlay Prep, 53-52, Thursday night at Otterbein College in Columbus, Ohio.

The loss ended Findlay Prep's winning streak at 45 games - and is just the second in the history of the school, formed in 2006.

Northland's Jared Sullinger showed why he is the No. 3 player in the Rivals 250 by scoring 32 points.

"The bigger the game the bigger he plays," his coach, and father, JT Sullinger said on ESPN after the game. "When the lights come on it is like a switch."

How Findlay Prep (11-1) lost was as surprising as the actual result.

After falling behind 29-15 at halftime, Findlay Prep roared back, pulling to within 39-35 after three quarters. It took its first lead since 4-2 with 5:45 to go.

The lead went back and forth before Cory Joseph hit a jumper with 13 seconds left to give Findlay Prep a 52-51 lead.

Then, the inexplicable happened.

As Sullinger brought the ball over halfcourt, he was fouled by Tristan Thompson - 35 feet from the basket - with just four seconds left.

Sullinger, who had made his eight previous attempts, made two more to give Northland the lead.

Findlay Prep raced the ball up the court, but Northland - which had a foul to give - commited one with 1.7 seconds left. Findlay Prep then inbounded the ball to Jospeh, whose 30-footer banged harmlessly off the rim.

It was only the second loss ever for Findlay Prep, which is a traveling basketball prep team formed in 2006 by former UNLV player Cliff Findlay.

The players attend class at the Henderson (Nevada) International School, have their tuitions paid for by Findlay and live in a house next to the school - which is also owned by Findlay.

Entering the evening the Pilots were 75-1 all-time and averaging 96 points per game in 2009.

Their lineup is filled with stars. Thompson and Joseph, both five-star recruits, are aided by two 2011 four-star players (Jabari Brown and Nick Johnson) and still another 2010 three-star players (Godwin Okonji).

But that wasn't enough against Sullinger - an Ohio State commit who last year joined a pretty elite list of players to win Mr. Basketball in Ohio as juniors (Jimmy Jackson, Greg Simpson, OJ Mayo and LeBron James).

In addition to his 32 points, he had 17 rebounds.

"He is a total team player," the elder Sullinger said. "As a coach and a father I am very proud of him."

Northland, a public school that won its first-ever state title a year ago en route to a No. 16 finish in the RivalsHigh Top 100, did take advantage of playing under Ohio rules, which do not include a shot clock.

But it was without its second-best player, fellow Ohio State commit J.D. Weatherspoon, who was sitting on the bench with an ankle injury.

Sullinger, however, showed he was more than capable of carrying the load.

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