Miller needed this one. Five times last year, Blue Ridge’s boys basketball got the better of the Mavericks. In fact, the Barons have owned the rivalry with 10 straight wins since 2014.
“We just had to come out and set the tone because know there are probably going to be three or four like last year,” said Miller’s Deshaun Wade. “We just had to come out and set the tone and let them know they’re not going to pick on us this year.”
Wade helped set that tone himself defensively and teammate Aundre Hyatt caught fire from behind the arc, pouring in 28 points to hold off the Barons 81-72.
Wade, who guards the opposing team’s top scorer night in and night out, drew the challenging assignment of marking Liberty-bound Blue Ridge guard Darius McGhee, who averages 21.1 points per game. Wade pestered McGhee all night, and through three quarters held him to 14 points.
“I just do what my coach tells me to do, latch on, follow him around screens, keep my hands up and avoid fouling the shooter,” Wade said. “Simple as that. I like to play with a chip on my shoulder and I’m sure he does too. Whenever I see him on the court I know it’s going to be a tough matchup.”
McGhee got going a little in the fourth and finished with 25 points on the night, but by then, the Mavericks had enough of an advantage and Miller hit 12 of 16 free throw attempts in the fourth to keep the Barons at arm’s length. The thing is, the Mavericks knew McGhee was going to get his points, they just wanted Wade to make it hard for McGhee, to make him work for it.
“It was an awesome performance (by Wade),” said Miller coach Danny Manuel. “Darius McGhee — people don’t understand how good that kid is, he’s putting up unreal numbers against the highest level competition in the country a lot of nights. That dude is unreal good. You’re just trying to slow him down, you’re not going to stop him.”
Wade also chipped in offensively with 18 points, including two critical first half 3-pointers. Dae Dae Heard and Tariq Balogun each came up with 13 points. But it was Hyatt who did the heavy lifting, knocking down six 3-pointers including three in the third quarter when Miller stretched its lead out to eight points right out of the gate. Hyatt knocked down catch and shoot three after catch and shoot three.
“He’s obviously a crazy player, he’s one of the best guys I’ve seen in the 2019 class,” Wade said. “He can shoot it, dribble it, plays like a grown man.”
Like every Miller and Blue Ridge game, this first edition of the rivalry in 2008 was a battle. Blue Ridge led early in the first quarter, but Miller got on track and led 16-15 at the end of the first quarter. Sardaar Calhoun scored 12 points in the first half, giving the Barons a boost in the first half with McGhee scoring just six points.
Chris Rogers dished out six assists for the Barons and Calhoun added seven rebounds to his 16 total points, but the Barons couldn’t get over the hump throughout. Then Miller’s stellar fourth quarter where they finished fastbreaks and took care of business at the line, snuffed out any hope of a Blue Ridge rally.
“We knew going into this game that we were going to get their best shot — this is a really good team, they’re well coached,” said Blue Ridge coach Cade Lemcke.
The Barons will get another chance to show that they can rebound from a loss after making huge strides in a road defeat at the hands of St. Stephens & St. Agnes in the Sleepy Thompson Tournament back on December 1. The Barons went 8-1 in the next nine games after that loss.
“The guys were really positive in the locker room, they were sticking together,” Lemcke said. “They’re resilient, they’re going to come back to work tomorrow and want to get better. We’ll be better prepared next time we play them.”
The Barons and Mavericks will clash again February 10, in the first of potentially three more meetings (in the VIC and VISAA tournaments) between the rivals.
“The chess match begins, they’re going to make some adjustments, we’re going to make some adjustments,” Lemcke said.