Aamir Simms put the team on his back in the third quarter of Blue Ridge’s semifinal with Virginia Episcopal.
Josh Colon did the same in the first half in the VISAA Division 2 championship game with Miller.
That’s when the Barons overwhelmed the Mavericks in the second and third quarter to coast to a 73-36 victory, giving those two seniors two state titles in three years — the perfect way to end their careers, especially since last year ended with a state runnerup. With a chip on their shoulders, Blue Ridge went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in Division II.
“Start to finish, to be the number one team — we told the boys there’s going to be a bullseye on their backs,” Lemcke said. “I was really proud of the guys to be playing well at the right time, buy into the game plan each and every game. But to be so solid this week, it was great. And to have the five seniors… they were 75-10 in three years and played in three state championships.”
Things were fairly close to start in the first quarter with Blue Ridge taking a 13-7 lead. But a 25-8 run in the second quarter blew the game wide open and Miller simply could not recover with things at 38-15 at the break.
If you think that last year’s loss to in the finals wasn’t at the core of this title run, you’re sorely mistaken. Colon and Simms played roles on the 2015 championship team, but they were featured heavily these last two years. Neither has a short memory. It was just the opposite.
“I wanted this game really bad and I was not going to leave without (this title),” Colon said. “I wanted it so bad that I was leaving it out there 100 percent every game.”
In the second half, Blue Ridge went up 63-30 with Darius McGhee and Colon forcing stops. And with Simms and Sadaar Calhoun finishing in the paint, the writing was on the wall. The Barons were able to work in their entire bench into the game in the fourth with all five of their seniors and finish up was essentially a victory lap on a 13-6 run.
“You play 100 percent until you get back to this stage,” Simms said. “This is what we’ve been working for the last three years. I put that in the back of my mind.”
Colon had 17 points in the win to lead the way with six assists and three steals. Simms finished with 16 points, three dunks including an alley-oop from Colon that made it 38-15 in the third. Simms also had seven rebounds. Calhoun had 13 points. McGhee finished with seven points, six assists and four steals.
For Miller, it was a tough pill to swallow. The Mavericks played the Barons into overtime the week prior in the VIC title game, but were just out-gunned on Saturday. DeShaun Wade and Aundre Hyatt each had nine points while DaeDae Heard had seven.
“The team that was around in December and November showed up tonight,” said Miller coach Danny Manuel. “They took our heart. That was tough because that’s something I pride ourselves on, playing tough.”
The Mavericks return almost their entire roster next season. And for a Blue Ridge team that returned a lot of talent and added some more after it had fallen just short last year, the similarities were not lost on Lemcke.
“Last year (we) were sitting right where were Miller and knew exactly what that feels like,” Lemcke said. “We reminded them ‘What do you want in your last game.’ I thought it was a great opportunity. Hats off to Miller, that’s a great team but I hope we never have to play a team five times in a season again.”
And that front end was Manuel’s speech afterwards to his players, fittingly enough.
“I told the guys that in order for the flowers to grow it’s got to rain,” Manuel said. “I told the juniors, there’s 365 days left. The sophomores have 730. Those days are numbered.”
At the end of the day, this year belonged to Blue Ridge. But with Miller back in the mix playing in the state title game, the road to the VISAA Division 2 title game clearly resides in Central Virginia and iron is sharpening iron. This rivalry saw a lull from the craze of the aughts up until this year. But it’s now better than ever.
Now it’s deciding state champions.