Blue Ridge’s second wave of players new exactly what they were in the game for in the first quarter.
“To bring intensity to the game, to go out, hit bodies, get rebounds, try and get in the paint and score,” said Marcus. “As long as we could do that, then that first group could get their mind right and really turn up.”
After the Barons’ starters got off to a slow start, that second wave steadied the ship and opened the door for the starters to return about eight minutes later with a vengeance. That’s when the Barons took over, built a three-point halftime lead and eventually pulled away from Atlantic Shores for a 61-43 victory in the VISAA Division II state quarterfinals.
“That second group I was very impressed that they came out and played almost that full quarter of basketball and played well,” said Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke. “It’s refreshing as a coach to see those guys who are waiting for their number to be called going out and giving their all.”
They’ll face old foe and rival Virginia Episcopal in the state semifinals Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Virginia State University.
Down just one, the Barons starters re-entered with a little more than five minutes left in the second quarter and went to work. An Aamir Simms follow dunk, a Sardaar Calhoun 3-pointer and Josh Colon attacking the basket to draw fouls while going 4-for-5 at the line in the frame helped push Blue Ridge to a 25-22 lead at the break.
“I thought that second quarter, the tide changed,” Lemcke said. “We missed so many shots around the rim and so many free throws but you can always control your attitude, you can always control how hard you play.”
While Atlantic Shores largely weather that storm, the Barons’ remarkable depth clearly wore on the Seahawks because Blue Ridge pulled away in the second half, leading 40-33 by the end of the third despite a valiant effort by Atlantic Shores led by Terrick Philpot’s 14 points and 11 from Marvin Trotman.
“Our depth and our strength in numbers is a big piece of our success this year, not only in practice and not only when you’re pressing a team and guys get fouls or get tired, but in situations like this,” Lemcke said. “We’ve got a second group of guys that just isn’t going to let up.”
Blue Ridge trailed 5-3 at the end of the first quarter as both teams’ defenses dug in early with a state final four berth on the line. That prompted Blue Ridge’s second group’s early entrance into the game, with Valeiras, Cameron Carr, Jayden Frazier, Xavier Kane and Myles Jones among the group that took control. That move als may pay big dividends for the Barons this weekend in what could be a long, strenuous week with Friday’s state semifinals, and with a win, the state title game Saturday.
Despite that long stretch in the first half with the second group running the show, Simms still finished with a double double of 14 points and 14 rebounds while Colon had 17 points, six assists and three rebounds. Calhoun led the offense in scoring with 18 points and also grabbed six rebounds.
Blue Ridge heads to Petersburg next to take on the Bishops in the state semifinals Friday.