Dakari Johnson won a national championship for Montverde Academy on Saturday. Then he promised to do the same next season for Kentucky.
The UK commitment had 18 points, eight rebounds and helped Montverde erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter for a 67-65 victory over St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) in the championship game of the National High School Invitational in Bethesda, Md.
Johnson made his promise in a post-game interview with ESPN.
“I’m going to win a national championship at Kentucky next year,” he said.
Never miss a local story.
The 7-foot center was held back by early foul trouble and scored only five points in the first half. But he erupted for eight points in the third quarter as the Eagles rallied to cut the St. Benedict’s advantage to single digits.
St. Ben’s went on another run to open the fourth quarter, but Montverde chipped away at the lead as the period moved on. Johnson delivered with a crucial three-point play to put Montverde ahead 64-62 with 24.1 seconds left, but Syracuse signee Tyler Ennis answered with a three-pointer to put St. Ben’s back on top by one point.
With the final seconds ticking away, Montverde point guard Kasey Hill raced down the court and found an open Jalyn Patterson in the corner. Patterson, a junior guard who doesn’t start for the Eagles, drained a three-pointer just before the buzzer to give Montverde the win.
Montverde lost to Findlay Prep in last year’s NHSI championship game. Johnson was on the bench for that game. He had to sit out the entire season after transferring from a school in New Jersey.
On Saturday, he went out a winner.
“I just didn’t want to lose,” he told ESPN.
The victory in the NHSI ensures that Montverde will be the No. 1 team in the final ESPN Power Rankings of the season.
Johnson will next play in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 13 in his hometown of Brooklyn. The game will be televised live at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.