State Tournament Briefing: 2019 VISAA State Quarterfinals

Photo by Bart Isley

2019 VISAA Division I Boys Basketball

State Quarterfinals: No. 9 St. Anne’s-Belfield (17-10) at No. 1 Paul VI (24-7)

The Basics: These two schools are much more used to locking up during lacrosse season, but now St. Anne’s-Belfield has earned a shot at a blueblood basketball program, the defending state champions in Paul VI. The Saints got here with a strong finish to the regular season and Tuesday’s win over Bishop Sullivan on the road. The reward is the No. 6 team in the Washington D.C. area on the road, and a chance to shock the world. They’ll face a Paul VI team looking to get back in rhythm after losing to Gonzaga in the WCAC semifinals.  The Saints have to take on a program unaccustomed to losing, especially when the Panthers step outside of the WCAC. This is undoubtedly a tall task even for the Saints who have tons of offensive weapons.

Key Matchup: STAB looks to mark 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Trevor Keels. KEels has an array of offers including UVa and Florida and has been tested night in and night out in the WCAC, but STAB is used to trying to contain big-time players, they played Trinity’s Henry Coleman three times this year and beat Coleman and Trinity once. Don’t look for the Saints’ standouts to be thrown off by Paul VI’s talent level.  

Who to Watch: STAB’s Malachi Poindexter. Poindexter has been lighting it up of late and when he’s cooking it takes STAB to another level offensively. He had 20 points in the Prep League semifinals and it gave the Saints a critical boost. Another explosive effort from beyond the arc wouldn’t just be a luxury here, it might be a necessity if STAB wants to advance.

The Line: Paul VI by 5. The Saints have the weapons to make things tough on the Panthers but they’ll have to play nearly perfect to pull this one off.


2019 VISAA Division II Boys Basketball

State Quarterfinals: No. 9 Norfolk Christian (16-8)  at No. 1 Blue Ridge School (25-6)

The Basics: Depth and defense have been the keys for the Barons, who have an array of players who are better than the sum of their parts. They won the VIC title game, and with VIC co-player of the year Chris Rogers and first team pick Michael Gray they’ve got a dynamic, versatile backcourt that is going to be a tough matchup for anyone to contend with. Gray is a dynamic scorer and driver who can set teammates up who’s also a stout on-ball defender. His addition has freed Rogers up some this year and Rogers has been tough for opponents on both ends of the court, a decisive, quick point guard who can make teams pay for sucking in and trying to pack the lane. The real problem for opponents though enters when William Lee, Savion Helm and Andy Nwoako come off the bench. There just aren’t many teams out there that have the luxury of bringing three players of their caliber in off the bench — the Barons have won 11 straight including the VIC title for a reason. All three create matchup problems and could make things tough on Norfolk Christian. Norfolk Christian will counter with balance of their own with four players averaging in double figures in scoring led by D.J. Cheiars at 14.6 points per game.

Key Matchup: Norfolk Christian tries to matchup with Blue Ridge down low. The Ambassadors just don’t have the height to clamp down on Blue Ridge when the Barons can go to Jaden Frazier, Sasha Glushkov, Houston Emory or  Maliq Brown all at 6-foot-7 and up. It’ll take a Herculean effort of collapsing as a team to keep the Blue Ridge bigs from having a big night and even if they can slow them down, that energy is going to open things up for Lee, Rogers and Gray.

Who to Watch: Blue Ridge’s Frazier. If the Barons want to make good on their No. 1 seed, Frazier is going to need to be a difference-maker. His role in the Barons’ stingy defense is critical, as he’ll try and snuff out any inside presence while also hedging out top and making life tough on opposing guards. If Frazier is locked in, odds aren’t good the Blue Ridge defense is going to give up much that night.

The Line: Blue Ridge by 10. The Barons’ defense has been so good of late, that likely spells trouble for Norfolk Christian.


State Quarterfinals: No. 6 Highland (25-5) at No. 3 Miller School (20-7), 6:30 p.m.

The Basics: It says a lot about Miller’s program that a 20-win regular season against a tough schedule where they’re the state’s No. 3 seed in VISAA Division II can happen when the Mavericks feel a little out of sync. Miller has battled through an injury with centerpiece DaeDae Heard and may be on their way to being better down the stretch if they can find a rhythm offensively and cohesion on defense. They added a tremendous scorer in Quadir Pettaway midseason when he was medically cleared and with Norfolk State-bound Daryl Anderson already in the mix, Miller should have more scoring punch locked and loaded for the state tournament. Can they find the right mix and make a run? They certainly have the talent to find themselves in the final but it starts with beating a Highland team they beat earlier in February 76-65 behind 19 points from Heard. If Miller can bounce back from a 44-42 loss to VES in the VIC semis, they could find themselves back in the final four against those Bishops with a chance for revenge.

Key Matchup: At the point guard spot, Miller’s Jordon Brown takes on Highland’s Angelo Brizzi. Brown is as maddening defender and even if he doesn’t mark the 6-foot-3 Brizzi he’ll be a factor. But Brizzi scored 21 on Miller in the first meeting, and Brown needs to be focused on running the offense for Miller efficiently enough to keep pace with a Highland team that can score from an array of spots.

Who to Watch: Miller’s Tariq Balogun. The Mavericks big man is often the difference-maker, a 6-foot-9 power forward who creates all kinds of matchup problems. He’s averaging 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game against a rigorous schedule. In the win over Highland earlier this year he had 13 points and was particularly efficient going 6-for-10 from the field. The Mavericks have struggled at times to spread the ball around, but the squad’s guards would be wise to try and get Balogun going. If he’s scoring, defenses are collapsing and it’s going to open it up for the squad’s shooters.

The Line: Miller by 7. The Mavericks have had some ups and downs, but look for the defending champs to turn things up with the state tournament here.


2019 VISAA Division I Girls Basketball Tournament

State Quarterfinals: No. 7 Episcopal (15-11) at No. 2 St. Anne’s-Belfield (24-1), 6 p.m.

The Basics: Run against STAB at your own risk. The STAB girls play a tempo that ranges from frenetic to breakneck, and when the Saints have the pedal to the metal and are trying to force turnovers with a trapping press, more often than not the opposition is in trouble. It’s a bet the Saints are happy to make that the opposition doesn’t have enough ball handlers to deal with Jovia Winkey (4.7 steals per game) spearheading the press. With Kymora Johnson checking in with 2.6 steals per contest and five other STAB players averaging nearly one steal per game, the Saints have the ability to create havoc in the backcourt. They also last absorbed a loss in November, so the formula is working.

Key Matchup: STAB contends with Episcopal’s 6-foot-2 junior Haley Sabol. Sabol averages 14.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game — she’s a double double machine with 11 of them on the year. The problem she’ll face though is that STAB often doesn’t allow opposing guards to even get into the offense, forcing a ton of turnovers or a poor decision that leads to a rush transition attempt. STAB also counters Sabol with a versatile tall threat of their own Vanessa Woodfolk who checks in with 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest.

Who to Watch: STAB’s Johnson. Winkey is the old hand at the point, but her team-first approach to make room for Mo Johnson, the talented eighth grader, in the backcourt has worked out well for both of them. Johnson is averaging 11.8 points, 5.5. Rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and emerging as a tall finisher and driver has opened things up for the entire STAB offense. If Johnson can keep this up as the competition ramps up, the Saints could find themselves in the state title game come Saturday.

The Line: STAB girls by 10. Saints create too much pressure for opposing teams and should knock off Episcopal and punch their ticket to the state final four here.


2019 VISAA Division II Girls Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals: No. 7 Norfolk Collegiate (14-12) at No. 2 Miller School (23-4), 5 p.m.

The Basics: Led by Blue Ridge Conference player of the year Olivia Wagner, Miller is back looking for its sixth-straight state title in Division II and that process starts with a clash with Norfolk Collegiate. Last season, Miller stumbled in the BRC title game before winning three straight to capture the state title. This year they’re coming in on a roll, winning 18 straight games since starting the season 5-4. Wagner is the centerpiece for Miller, but she’s got a tough, rugged supporting cast too, including Hannah Woodard who just scored her 1,000th career point, Kianna Johnson, Naya Hunter and Presleigh Braxton. That group has a legacy to uphold and this time of year is when the Mavericks often shine brightest.

Key Matchup: Miller’s defense tries to contain Norfolk Collegiate’s Brianna Powell. Powell scored 16 points against Trinity Christian in Tuesday’s first round game, and the Mavericks employ an aggressive defensive style that’s resulted in more than 11 steals per game. Can they shut down Powell, create steals and get in transition?

Who to Watch: Miller’s Hunter. Hunter stuffs the stat sheet with 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. When Hunter gets going and is attacking off the dribble, the Mavericks seem to find another gear.

The Line: Miller by 10. The Mavericks should take care of business here.