Stranglehold: Blue Ridge boys clamp down on Miller

Photo by Kristi Ellis

It’s called the William Lee drill now, a segment of Blue Ridge’s practice where the Barons focusing on finishing creatively at the rim. 


“Usually when I’m on the fastbreak I don’t try and make a move, I just go into the person’s body and bully them,” Lee said. “For five minutes yesterday we were just working on making moves on the fastbreak — euro step, hop step, spin move — you can do whatever you want but you’ve got to make a move instead of just trying to bully the guy.”


Lee may still be trying to bully defenders — he caught some flack from the bench for a finish in the second half on a breakaway where he powered up and drew a foul — but bullying or not, he led the way for the Barons Tuesday night offensively in a 56-40 win over Miller School. Lee scored 19 points including a trio of first half 3-pointers that helped the Barons cash in on a lockdown defensive effort that included a third quarter where Blue Ridge held Miller scoreless until Quadir Pettaway came up with a putback for the Mavs with a little more than 10 seconds left in the frame. 


“We want to be the best defensive team in the state and the best defensive team that we can be,” said Blue Ridge point guard Michael Gray. “(Coach Cade Lemcke) just prepares us and lets us know during the play where we need to be.”


Gray chipped in eight points, six boards and six assists on the night, handling the point in his usual calm, efficient approach while also helping spearhead a defense that held Miller’s starting backcourt to just 14 points. Blue Ridge led 28-25, but the Barons’ depth started to have a major impact on Miller after the break.


“We feed off each other,” said Blue Ridge’s Maliq Brown. “We were talking more and everybody on the bench was interacting with the team so we fed off each other’s energy.”


The Barons’ brand fierce man-to-man defense that makes every opponent work for everything they get, as Miller found out Tuesday night. 


“We lost discipline and tried too many times to make plays and we told our guys before the game we’re not going to play a better defensive team all year,” said Miller coach Jack Meriwether. “If you do that against those guys you’re not coming out with a win.”


Sasha Glushkov had a solid night in the paint with 10 points and five rebounds in the paint while Maliq Brown and Andy Nwaoko each also made big plays in the lane. Brown found Derrick Jones on a fastbreak for a flush that put an exclamation point on the Barons’ victory.


“Derrick is an explosive finisher so if I get to the paint and I get stopped, him or Andy is always wide open, so I look for the extra pass and give it to them,” Brown said.


Jones had seven points, four boards and three assists. Kobe Jerome rounded out the bulk of the offense with six points, five assists and a pair of rebounds. Jerome had a huge second half 3-pointer. 


Clarence Rupert scored nine points in the first half, giving the Barons some problems out on the wing, but Blue Ridge managed to hold him scoreless after the break. Gabe Jimerson finished with 16 points to lead the Mavericks including four 3-pointers. 


“He’s a matchup problem and that’s a big thing we wanted to take advantage of, (Jimerson) and Clarence on the wing and I thought (Jimerson) hit some real big shots for us early,” Meriwether said.


Blue Ridge will try and extend its current win streak to eight games with a home clash against Oak Hill’s Red Team Wednesday while Miller will look to bounce back against North Cross at home Thursday.