As the regular season’s wrapped up for most teams, I decided to head south toward Mechanicsville, VA on Tuesday night to watch Hermitage High School (Richmond, VA) face up against the Lee-Davis Confederates. Being the last game of the season for both teams, I held no doubt that the two would go toe to toe from beginning to finish. The results more than satisfied, as Hermitage never could take a lead but kept things close the entire course of the contest. With a strong crowd of supporters and a packed-filled student section, Lee-Davis hung on to earn a last victory on their home floor, finishing with a 14-8 record; the most season wins in over 25 years for the program.
Lee-Davis – 78
Hermitage – 68
Some Game Notes
- In my third time watching Lee-Davis compete, they showed even more of their bench depth during the matchup, as players who checked onto the floor all contributed in some unique way. This notably stood out in the second quarter when standout guard James Wallace III ’20 went down on a very hard foul in the midst of a fast break dunk attempt. Obviously shaken up, Wallace III spent some time on the bench for a while but the Confederates’ spark, after starting off the game strong, didn’t show any decrease. If anything, I’m sure they just became more motivated.
- Hermitage got their engine going more in the second quarter and really started to seize momentum after the halftime break. Similar to quite a few other teams I’ve seen in the area, the Panthers relied on their grit more than anything else to never let their opponent gain a comfortable lead. Hermitage’s defense look really good in spurts, more so during their run in the second half. They attempted a strategy of a full-court press with traps throughout the night but only slowed down Lee-Davis for a small stretch in the third quarter. This stint of hard-nosed defense clearly had an effect on Lee-Davis pace, but fouling prevented Hermitage from executing on more clean defensive stops.
- Free-throw shooting for both teams took up most of the fourth quarter. Making the free opportunities didn’t result as easily, however. Hermitage had several moments that could’ve saw them cut Lee-Davis lead to a very small margin if they knocked down those chances at the charity stripe. In one instance, I remember them missing the front end of back-to-back 1-and-1s, while only down by 6. Both teams made their way into the bonus, and double-bonus later on, in an effective matter. They can undoubtedly draw fouls; just need to finish the job at the free-throw line more consistently. A recurring issue I’ve seen in high school basketball this winter.
- One other ability that stands out about Lee-Davis is their shot-blocking, despite not having a ton of height on the roster or anything. Their tallest player stands around only 6’5,” yet multiple players can contribute in rim protection. The team displayed this in several key moments during the final period, which ultimately played a big role on the outcome of things. My advice: don’t go into the paint lightly against the Confederates.
Tuesday Night Standouts
Adonis Johnson ’19 – Lee-Davis: The 6’5” forward initiated his team’s hot start to the game by using his motor to do work around the rim. Johnson strongly pulled down offensive rebounds and protected the ball well to go back up for contested finishes. His early activity set the tone for Lee-Davis’ enthusiastic play and his energy never took a break at any point while he was on the floor. Johnson has a good frame to him that aids the most in finishing through contact. His soft touch around the rim, usually high over defenders, also makes him a threat whenever he secures a second chance possession. Once Johnson got the crowd into it and the ball rolling, his teammates just fell right in line. He finished with 13 points and several rebounds.
Darius Jones ’19 – Hermitage: As many most likely know by now, either by watching him play up close or reading my features, Jones can flat-out shoot the ball. This proved true when he hit three triples in the first half on Tuesday night, including back-to-back ones from the same area on the left wing. Regardless, more aspects of the 6’3” scoring guard’s game, outside of just shooting, stood out even more. I really liked how he found his open teammates on the court, whether it resulted by penetrating gaps or making a quick decision by seeing them out of the corner of his eye. He also did well in creating space to attack the rim, mostly on the baseline. Jones didn’t shoot free throws too great, but he honestly looked just as good driving as he did shooting. He drew some of the most fouls of any other Hermitage player in the second half, getting the Panthers into the double bonus. Defensively, he had nice timing to cause a few turnovers. I’ve said it before (more than once), but this unsigned senior can PLAY. Any program that lands him will get a steal. He finished with a game-high 19 points (tied with Tyler Berry ’19 of Lee-Davis) in his last outing.
Elijah Jones ’20 – Lee-Davis: Probably the best player in the gym at drawing contact, I tweeted out during the game that Jones has a unique mix of both shiftiness and power. The lefty 6’2” guard made quick moves to get past his defender, usually with a swift crossover, and takes care of the rest once he gets in the lane. He’s incredibly smart at using his body control to earn fouls. Early in the second quarter, he earned three straight trips to the line. Later on, in the final period, he completed back-to-back AND-1s in one sequence. He has a nice shooting touch too, but I’d classify him more as a ‘head hunter’ who loves to go right at a defense every time. I expect his college recruitment to start blowing up more after this stellar junior campaign of leading the team in scoring (13.2 points per game). He chipped in 17 points on the night.
Tyler Berry ’19 – Lee-Davis: At about 5’9,” Berry’s far from the biggest player on the floor, but arguably showed the most heart. He made his first two three-pointers to get Lee-Davis’ perimeter shooting in full function and then just continued to turn up his intensity as each possession went by. Berry’s way of scoring paint points and exploding through Hermitage’s front court left me the most impressed. I remember one stretch where he grabbed two or three offensive rebounds in a row on back-to-back free throw misses from other teammates. This led to him drawing his own fouls. Just one example of what I mean by his heart; that guy isn’t afraid to take on anybody. Watch out for him next season up North, as he’ll join the men’s team at Division II California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U).
Elijah Smith ‘20 – Hermitage: At 6’4,” the lanky junior forward played with a big chip on his shoulder to snag rebounds and play defense against anyone who ended up coming across his way. He’s one of the best examples of Hermitage’s ‘grit’ that I mentioned earlier. During his team’s run in the third quarter, Smith got everyone on his bench, as well as the crowd of fans, hyped by turning it up in his own production. He may not have scored a ton of points, but affected the game greatly by doing all of the little things. I always appreciated players likewise to this; some of the more valuable pieces to a team.
Congrats to both teams on their respective seasons! 804 audiences should catch me at postseason events starting next week!