Tarkanian Classic Platinum Division Semifinals (12/20, PST)
St. Augustine (Calif.) 9-1 vs. St. Pius-St. Matthias (Calif.) 6-1, 6 pm
Desert Mountain (Ariz.) 8-1 vs. The Branson School (Calif.) 7-1, 7:30 pm
Jaden Bailes, St. Augustine (San Diego, Calif.) 6-2 SG 2026
Has made a big splash so far in helping the Saints advance to the Platinum Division semifinals. He started it off by hitting five 3-pointers and netting 22 points in Saints' 52-41 first round victory over Mater Lakes (Miami, Fla.). In the quarterfinals, Bales made two big plays down the stretch to spark St. Augustine to a 55-52 comeback win over Arbor View (Las Vegas, Nev.). With 2:35 to go, the sophomore hit a big 3-pointer to give St. Augustine a 53-49 lead and on the next play Arbor View's Pharaoh Compton fouled out on an offensive foul. After Arbor View cut its deficit to one on a 3-pointer, Bailed hit a 8-foot baseline floater to make it 55-52 and account for the final margin. Bailes has good skill, deep range and a knack for being around the ball when it matters.
Javon Bardwell, Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 6-3 W 2027
The Wolves start four underclassmen and all of them are some of the best players in their class in the West Region. In fact, Bardwell just might be the best 2027 high school player in the region and one of its better long-term prospects. Bardwell has length, athleticism, but most importantly, can handle the ball and finish going both ways. He's also an elite rebounding guard. After a terrific performance at the HoopHall West in Scottsdale, Ariz at the end of November, Bardwell has turned in terrific performances at the Tark Classic. He went for 26 points in the second half of the Wolves' 74-69 first round victory over Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.). He took a secondary scoring performance in the big 81-65 quarterfinal victory over host Bishop Gorman, but still handled the defensive pressure well and made some big defensive plays. Sophomore Kaden House is already well-known nationally and any credible ranking service that doesn't have the Desert Mountain star in its national 2026 Top 20 can't be taken too seriously. He's proving to be one of the best guards in the country, regardless of class. He went for 36 points in the Wolves' victory over Bishop Gorman and his brother Kalek House, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who is a bit more stockier and more scoring oriented, had 27 points as the House brothers accounted for 63 of their team's 81 points. Kalek can hit the 3-ball and has a nice mid-range game and all of Desert Mountain's ball-handlers can change direction and play with a nice pace.
Semetri Carr, The Branson School (Ross, Calif.) 6-1 CG 2025
Illinois-bound power point guard Jase Butler had it going in the Bulls' 71-57 first round win over St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.), finishing with 25 points, including four 3-pointers after halftime. He's physically dominant, so it's easy to see why Calvary Christian (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was hell-bent on slowing him down. Fortunately for Branson, it has another D1-bound guard that can hurt teams in a variety of ways. Carr is a slick guard with burst and good feel who is wired to score, but can handle it like a true lead guard. He also rebounds the ball well for his size and is not afraid to mix it up and draw fouls. When Calvary focused on Butler, Carr went to work in the first half, scoring 20 points. With the quarterfinal game in the balance entering the fourth quarter, the junior knocked down his foul shots while Butler got the hot hand from the field to help Branson outscore Calvary, 26-19, in the final eight minutes. Carr finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Butler hit four 3-pointers down the stretch in the fourth period and five for the game to finish with 17 points.
Cayden Daughtry, Calvary Christian (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) 5-11 PG 2027
The Eagles have a big frontline and some balance, but the spark plug is a mercurial freshman who will turn 15 right after the high school season. Daugherty is under control with the dribble and has an elite separation game with the jump shot. He also has good instincts to roll to the open area when he doesn't have the rock. In the Eagles' 55-46 first round victory over Centennial (Corona, Calif.), Daughtery hit three 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. In the quarterfinals, he had three second half 3-pointers to keep his team in range in a tough game with Branson (Ross, Calif.). The Eagles were down by one point entering the fourth quarter, but the wheels came off in the final eight minutes.
Nick Jefferson, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-1 CG 2025
Quick scoring lead guard is a fiery competitor for a Gaels team that is improving and hopes to make a run at the NIAA Class 5A state crown. Jefferson should see his recruitment uptick during the winter after going for 25 points, seven assists and four steals in Gorman's 67-63 first round victory over Sagemont (Weston, Fla.) and 24 points, five rebounds and four assists in the 81-65 loss to Desert Mountain.
Ace Reiser, Alta (Sandy, Utah) 5-11 PG 2024
D2s and lower level schools should take a deep look at this cerebral point guard that sees the court well and has a knack for not only the big play, but the right play. Also a pin-point passer, Resier had 20 points in Alta's 74-63 first round victory over tough Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.). Although Alta was upset in the quarterfinals by St. Pius-St. Matthias (Downey, Calif.), he continued to make a positive impression, including a 35-foot, 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer that gave his team a 60-52 lead it would eventually give up. Reiser finished with 10 points. St. Pius-St. Matthias got a huge second half from San Francisco-bound Tyrone Riley to propel his team to a 81-69 quarterfinal victory. He's not under the radar per se, but is an absolute terrific get for the Dons. The smooth and versatile lefty with a college-ready frame netted 18 second-half points and finished with 24.
Michael Simcoe, Sandra Day O'Connor (Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-8 PF 2025
This is the most talked about prospect in the entire event, as he was a relatively unknown nationally at the beginning of the high school season. Many national scouts and college coaches were interest in seeing Sierra Vista (Las Vegas, Nev.) junior 7-footer Xavier Stanton vs. Simcoe in a first round Spalding Division matchup, and came away raving about O'Connor's big man. He's no longer a sleeper after scoring 26 points in the head-to-head matchup. Simcoe has a big frame that he knows how to use, good hands and the lefty can step outside and keep defenses honest with a well-timed 3-pointer. Simcoe had heavyweight colleges over at Sierra Vista High School looking at him on the second day of the tournament, but is probably more suited for the mid-major/mid-major plus level. His team fell to a solid Poly (Riverside, Calif.) club in the quarterfinals.
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores
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