It’s an entirely different look. It’s a lot of new faces. But that fresh mix is already getting some similar results in the win column.
Blue Ridge, still breaking in a retooled lineup now fronted by a deep group of athletic,versatile guards, beat Millwood, a state quarterfinalist a year ago, 84-71 in the Barons’ home opener.
“Everyone in the locker room is willing to work and willing to listen,” said Blue Ridge guard Darius McGhee. “We have three senior captains who know what’s going on, what to do and what the coaches expect, and with them willing to listen to us, it’s not hard to get in the swing of things.”
Those senior captains powered a strong, balanced offensive effort against Millwood, with Sardaar Calhoun’s 20 points and eight assists leading the way while McGhee had 10 points, all in the first half, and 13 rebounds while Myles Jones had 16 points.
That offensive performance allowed the Barons to build a 42-29 halftime lead and while Millwood kept scoring all night, the Barons’ offense made sure that explosion didn’t matter.
“Offensively we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be, defensively we’re behind,” said Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke. “For a team to come in here and score 71 points, I don’t remember a team score more than 51 or 55 points but when you have new faces, you have kids who haven’t been through the system yet.”
Without big men like Aamir Simms, now at Clemson, patrolling the paint, the Barons have they’re now employing a four guard lineup that was effective offensively against the Bobcats Tuesday night. That lineup is particularly impactful when the big man that is still around, Jaden Frazier, gets going like he did in the second half.
Frazier scored 11 points, all after the break, with an array of drives and post moves plus a mid-range jumper.
Meanwhile, those guards, particularly McGhee, a Liberty signee, and new addition Chris Rogers, proved capable of picking up the slack on the boards, with Rogers adding nine rebounds (and 11 points including three 3-pointers) to McGhee’s 13 boards.
“We’re short on bigs this year, so I’m just trying to make sure I’m helping Jaden out because it’s hard to get off one dude who’s boxing you out and then you’ve got to worry about another dude,” McGhee said. “We’re just trying to make sure we get defensive boards so we can get our offense going.”
Calhoun is a big part of getting that offense going, spearheading a night where the Barons had 23 assists on 30 field goals, with Calhoun’s eight helpers leading the way. Calhoun also showed some serious leadership late in the game when he stayed engaged and was coaching up some of the Barons’ younger players. That approach and attitude permeates throughout a team.
“When your top dogs are working hard, everyone is going to work hard,” Lemcke said. “When your top dogs are facilitating and being unselfish, everyone is going to be unselfish.”
Blue Ridge (3-1) will play in the Buckeye Elite National Showcase later this week.