In 2009 it was Paul VI and Erick Green, now starting for Virginia Tech. Last year it was Bishop O’Connell and Kendall Marshall, now running the point for North Carolina. Unfortunately for Blue Ridge, it happened again, this time at the hands of Benedictine and Duke commit Mike Gbinije. For the third straight year the Barons got themselves to the VISAA Division 1 title game, but also for the third straight year, they come up just short.
“It’s been a great run,” Ramsey said. “We had the best record in school history, won a (VIC) conference championship. We were nationally ranked. We came one step short of everything we wanted to accomplish this year. But that doesn’t make (this team) failures in any sense of the word. These guys are winners and have been a great team to coach. I’m real happy with them.”
The Cadets nearly saw a hard-earned, double-digit lead disappear when Malick Kone hit a jumper to tie the game with a little under 90 seconds to play. But Benedictine did not allow a point for the rest of the night, coming up with one defensive stop after another and burying its free throws to complete a 52-45 win over Blue Ridge.
“I thought the free throws were huge, but the two steals Jordan Burgess had at the end, we salted it away on the defensive end,” said Benedictine coach Sean McAloon.
Significantly undersized with the exception of Gbinije, Benedictine was able to take an early lead in the first quarter and spread into an 11-point lead late in the second quarter behind its quick guard play. The Cadets hammered Blue Ridge with one three pointer after another, while conversely, the Barons struggled to pile up the points in the paint and hit their long range jumpers.
“They were huge and we had to pick our poison,” McAloon said. “What we did early is set the tone early with Jordan. Then Mike traded jobs with him and became the facilitator. The floor really spread.”
Blue Ridge fought back in the third and cut the 9-point deficit at the half down to four heading into the fourth quarter as Cameron Anderson and Malick Kone started to find a rhythm. Anderson made it a one possession game immediately to start the fourth, but behind Gbinije and Burgess, Benedictine went back up by as many as six points with just a little under six minutes to play.
Kone and Anderson led Blue Ridge on one last surge. Kone’s athletic jumper inside of two minutes locked the game up at 45, but nothing fell through the net for the top-seeded Barons after that.
“If we played 10 games against them, we’d be lucky to split,” McAloon said. “But today we got it done.”
Gbinije lead all scorers with 18 points while Burgress was just behind with 17.
For Blue Ridge, Kone finished with 17 while Anderson and Isaiah Battle each added 10 points.