Holding Bishop Sullivan to just 45 points was a good start, maybe even a warning shot. Locking Virginia Episcopal down to the tune of a 76-56 win in the VIC semifinals though? That’s a pretty good sign that with the state tournament looming, Blue Ridge’s defense that has been their calling card the last couple of years is starting to get cranked up.
“Our team is really clicking right now, especially defensively,” said Blue Ridge’s Myles Jones. “We’re locking in on defense for sure.”
The win vaults the Blue Ridge into the VIC final where they’ll get a third shot at Miller after a pair of losses to the Mavericks during the regular season.
The Barons want to hold teams under 50 every night, and while they didn’t quite get there with the Bishops, they were superb on the defensive end, holding VES to just eight first quarter points and 10 in the second quarter, with most of that coming before a dominant 22-3 run that ended the first half and blew open a game that was deadlocked at 15-15.
“Twenty-two points is 22 points, but holding them to three points the rest of the quarter I thought was huge because they’re obviously a great team, well-coached with great individual players,” said Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke.
Jones was instrumental in that run, scoring nine of his 15 points in the frame, hitting a tough lay-up and a pair of big-time 3-pointers.
“I thought Myles’ intensity today on the defensive end and obviously what he can do offensively, I thought he was a difference-maker,” Lemcke said.
When Jones, Sardaar Calhoun and Darius McGhee are all clicking like they were against the Bishops, Blue Ridge becomes particularly hard to guard. McGhee had 23 powered by five 3-pointers while Calhoun had 19 points including three 3-pointers.
But it was the the defense that carried the day. While Princeton-bound Jaelin Llewellyn finished with 24 points, the Barons held him to just five in the first half and they managed to hem him in during the explosive second quarter run.
“We knew we had to come out and make a difference in the second quarter,” Jones said. “Our help defense was perfect, I think we got three or four steals on Jaelin and got him out of his game and took over after that.”
By the time Llewellyn got going, it was too little too late for VES who got eight points from Charlie Barnett with all of them coming in the fourth quarter.
Blue Ridge’s offense got a boost too from Chris Rogers who hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points and Jaden Frazier who had six points, five of which came during the second quarter on a couple of tough finishes.
Blue Ridge will square off with Miller Saturday at Roanoke College.