Blue Ridge’s boys basketball team flipped a switch ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Virginia Episcopal.
It was clear well before Michael Gray unleashed his show-stopping, crossover-stepback-hesitation-crossover-spin lay-up in the fourth quarter on an isolation play, but that dramatic finish made it obvious — the Barons are in playoff mode.
“We’re getting into playoff mode early, just putting teams away fast, we don’t want to play around with anybody,” Gray said. “We want to get through our games quick.”
The Barons, who are ranked No. 1 in VISAA’s Division 2, cruised 80-48 past VES in the Virginia Independent Conference semifinals, a statement start to the postseason that came on the heels of a 6-0 regular season run through the often brutal VIC.
According to Blue Ridge guard William Lee, Gray had been asking Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke to go isolation the entire game against his man and with a sizeable lead in the fourth, Gray went to work and put together one of the plays of the year, with the combination move that ended in a flourish and drew a foul.
“I saw a matchup that I thought I liked and I just took that matchup,” Gray said. “I just wanted to go at him and get that bucket.”
If Thursday was a taste of what’s coming in the next couple of weeks, Blue Ridge’s opponents are going to have their hands full.
“This is my last game go-round so I want to go out with a bang,” Lee said. “Some of my teammates didn’t get that state championship feeling that we got last year. I want to make sure that they get that feeling so we’ve got to turn it up a notch and get teams out of the gate early.”
The Barons jumped on VES from the outset, creating a series of turnovers with their typically suffocating defense while finishing in transition. The Barons have been playing well all year and have won eight games in a row, but there was a ruthlessness to the start that was noticeable.
Lee led the Barons Thursday with 15 points and also chipped in three assists. He knocked down a couple of huge threes in the first half as the Barons built a 36-15 lead. He set the pace for a balanced offense that had five players reach double figures. Gray finished with 11 points, six boards and four assists.
In the post, Sasha Glushkov scored 14 points and had seven boards while Andy Nwaoko had 12 points and six boards and Maliq Brown had 10 points and six boards to go with four assists. Devin Walker came off the bench and finished with eight points, three assists and two rebounds. One of those assists went to Jimmy Yang, a reserve who’s layup finish off the Walker assists was his first field goal in front of the Barons’ home crowd all year.
Blue Ridge will face Hargrave in the VIC championship game Saturday at Roanoke College.