I found myself checking out another Senior Day contest yesterday… this time up north in Warrenton, VA; some familiar territory. The Hawks of Highland School have enjoyed a stellar season and took time before tip-off to celebrate their six seniors: Ben Babcox, Josiah Baines, Darret Justice, Aamir Mohammad, Luke Rodgers, and Cameron Timmons. A back-and-forth affair then followed, between Highland and the visiting Christchurch School, in a non-conference matchup. While having to deal with some questionable calls throughout the game, both teams played each other tough and made sure it went down to the final wire; keeping those in the audience on the edge of their seat. Highland ended up victorious, as they made the most of their advantage at the free-throw line late in the game. With another win added to the column, the Hawks now improve at 20-5 with only two more regular-season games remaining. They host Wakefield School on Tuesday (2/12) and then Trinity Christian School makes the visit on Thursday (2/14).
Highland – 61
Christchurch – 59
Some Game/Team Notes
- After struggling pretty bad to make their shots in the first quarter, the Christchurch Seahorses started to turn it on and seemed to give more and more effort as each quarter passed by. I like the grit of head coach Brendan Cole’s squad; they showed some will in fighting through adversity when things didn’t really go their way. They move the ball around solidly to find good looks, even when acknowledging that most of their core players can get a bucket on their own. Two things hurt Christchurch the most during yesterday’s game: fouls and turnovers. They allowed the Hawks to get in the bonus early during both halves. Once Highland reached the double bonus late in the fourth quarter, they pretty much finished things off at the line. As far as turnovers, these mostly occurred from the Seahorses trying to make plays a bit too fast in transition. They looked best operating within the half-court.
- My second time watching them this season, I’ve been impressed with Highland’s approach to the game. The players never appeared to get rattled or start doubting themselves, even when Christchurch began their own run. A strong confidence in the team as a whole goes along nicely with their undeniable talent. Highland runs some good quick-hitters that they scored on more times than not. They have good chemistry and feel for each other’s tendencies, which played a large part in them finding the right plays to make down the stretch with the game on the line. They look like a team who does well both in half-court sets and transition breaks. However, similar to Christchurch, they can be a bit turnover-prone in their fast break offense. This became most evident for both teams in the third quarter.
- I wish Christchurch played in the Delaney Athletic Conference (DAC) with Highland so we could see a rematch of these two programs! They both have similar styles of play and demeanor in how they face competition. I feel that Christchurch has a bit more quickness than Highland, considering how they could slice through the Hawks’ full-court press late in the second half. On the other hand, Highland has more of an interior presence in Cameron Timmons ’19. Very few can prevent the 6’10” burly center from getting looks around the rim.
- Now undefeated in the DAC at 10-0, I don’t really see anything stopping Highland from winning the regular-season and conference tournament titles once again. They’ve won the tournament in two of the past three seasons (2016 and 2018). This year’s group looks on the verge to doing the same and possibly more, as I’m sure they have a vision of making a deeper run into the postseason after losing in the VISAA Division II quarterfinals to Blue Ridge School last February. I advise everyone to keep an eye on the Hawks if they have not done so already; they may have something cooking up soon.
Standouts of Saturday Afternoon
Angelo Brizzi ’21 – Highland: Leading the way in Highland’s scoring this season, averaging about 18 points a night, Brizzi already looks as one of the most complete offensive players in the area. He showed yesterday that he can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways: shooting from all three levels, using jabs to attack the lane, getting steals/finishing in transition, and can smartly draw fouls. I took note of his footwork the most… he had several pivots for shot attempts that you don’t see from most players at that age. Brizzi’s feel for the game and natural talent looks the best on Highland’s roster right now. I’m sure they’ll lean on him to increase this production at an even greater rate once the DAC and state tournaments arrive. The lefty sophomore picked up an offer from Columbia University on New Years’ Eve and I expect his recruitment to keep on building quite soon.
Connor Gordon ’19 – Christchurch: The Seahorses relied on their lead guard the most throughout the first half, and he more than delivered. Standing at 6’0,” Gordon had good control as a guy who could get to different spots inside the arc and then use his IQ to create contact or space for his scoring looks. What I liked most about him is that he has that ‘middle game.’ Most agree that this area’s one of the more crucial aspects of a primary ball-handler’s offense. Gordon did really well in drawing fouls whenever he didn’t settle for a jumper, which led to an efficiency at the free-throw line. He carried the majority of Christchurch’s scoring load in the first two quarters, scoring 14 of his game-high 18 points. One thing he can improve on a little better involves recognizing proper shots to take; sometimes he might miss the open man by shooting over a contested defender.
Cameron Timmons ’19 – Highland: Timmons looked like a coach’s dream out there on the floor yesterday as a big guy who consistently played with an assertiveness in the post. Christchurch had some size, but not enough to neutralize the Hawks’ center, who I consider one of the most valuable pieces on the team. Timmons did well in affecting the game on both ends. Early on, his defense looked good in contesting shots and not letting any of the Seahorses’ players back their way into the paint. His defensive rebounding really stood out; Christchurch rarely got a second chance on a possession with Timmons on the floor. Offensively, he used his strength well to finish with drop steps and patience, along with a soft touch. His free-throw shooting looked solid also, which is always satisfying to see in a guy that size. They typically draw fouls more than the average center. An unsigned senior that has potential to make an immediate impact at the next level.
Jaylen Wood ’20 – Christchurch: The 6’1” guard played as Christchurch’s best attacker throughout the game, coming into his own in the second half. Wood has good body control and acceleration when he makes up his mind to go downhill. He completed several key drives in stretches where his team simply needed someone to make a play. His shot also looked solid, as he knocked in a couple from distance. With Gordon and Ify Eze ’19, another standout guard, both graduating this spring, I expect Wood to take over as one of, if not, the main go-to-guy next winter. He has all of the ingredients to develop into a complete offensive player, while also containing good athleticism to make plays on the defensive end. He finished with 16 points in the loss.
Darret Justice ’19 – Highland School: The senior didn’t have his best game, yet still showed the versatility he can bring onto the floor as a strong 6’2” combo guard. Justice has a solid frame that helps him move his way through defenders when he sees an opening in the lane. He can attract fouls just as good as any of his teammates and had some clutch makes at the charity stripe near the end of the final quarter. I also liked how Justice stuck his nose in the paint to go after offensive rebounds; something he did significantly well for a guard. This aggressiveness also aided in him getting to the free-throw line. Once Justice gets more confidence in his outside jumper, he’ll take that next step as a guard who can really hurt you anywhere on the floor. Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) is getting a tough player and natural leader entering their program next season.
Two more DAC games left on the schedule… can the Hawks finish the regular season undefeated in the conference?