Charlottesville boys basketball was going to have to just find a way to make it work Friday afternoon in the championship game of the Scrimmage Play Winter Classic.
Facing a fast, athletic Patrick Henry-Roanoke team that can absolutely get up and down the floor, the Black Knights had two key guards fighting through sickness and a post player missing from the rotation.
Charlottesville found a way, riding 29 points from Aidan Yates and a tenacious defensive effort against Patrick Henry-Roanoke to a 73-60 win and the first-ever Scrimmage Play Winter Classic championship.
“We all love each other, we’re best friends and that really helps with our team chemistry,” said Charlottesville’s Aidan Yates. “And they know to find me when I’m in open spots.”
He was in open spots much of the night clearly as he went an efficient 11-for-17 from the field.
Guards Che Lewis and Lamrione Brock fought through sickness throughout the game while Marjaylen Jackson, one of the Black Knights’ front court players, was out of the lineup sick.
“I gave (Brock and Lewis) the MVPs because they were just barfing almost and they just stuck it out,” said Charlottesville coach Mitch Minor. “I’m proud of them, they were both sick as a dog.”
The Black Knights led 33-32 at the break, offsetting the Patriots’ speed with some tough on-ball defense. Yates and Luca Matic each had three blocks while Lewis had two steals.
The Black Knights started to really pull away after the break though when Nas Sumpter started knocking down 3-pointers to complement a relentless scoring effort from Yates. Sumpter went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, knocking down three of them in the second half. With Yates going 5-for-8 from outside, the Black Knights just had too much offensive firepower on the perimeter for Patrick Henry to counter.
“(Nas) contributed a great deal from the outside when it was crunch time, I think we went down one or two and he hit a clutch three,” Minor said.
Charlottesville led by four going into the fourth and then went 9-for-11 at the free throw line to make that lead hold up as Patrick Henry kept fighting. The Patriots just couldn’t score enough to keep up with just 12 points in the final frame.
“They were so tough on dribble drives, we had a hard time keeping them in front but overall I thought we did a pretty job and the second half we contained a little bit more but they’re definitely a good team,” Minor said.
Early in the fourth, Sumtper’s last three of the day put the Black Knights up 57-49. But the Patriots didn’t wilt, with Moosie Calloway burying a three to cut the lead back to 59-56. But then Patrick Henry’s top scorer, Tay Stanley, fouled out with 4:11 to play. A short time later, Yates buried a three to push the lead to 65-58 and Lewis hit two free throws to make it 68-58 and essentially put the game out of reach for the Patriots.
“We worked really hard but they’ve got a lot of shooters and we’ve got to do a better job of closing out on defense,” Tasco said. “It was a really tough battle. (The competition) was really good, we’re not playing to beat like the Hidden Valleys, we’re playing to win playoff games and playing a team of this caliber helps us get better.”
Matic finished with 16 points for the second straight night and also pulled down six boards en route to earning All-Tournament team honors. Yates was the tournament MVP and Sumpter also picked up All-Tournament honors after averaging 14.5 points over the two games in the tournament.
Patrick Henry’s Tay Stanley and Rod Tasco earned All-Tournament nods too while Norfolk Collegiate’s Brennan Chatman rounded out the All-Tournament team while scoring 25 in the consolation game. Stanley scored 20 against the Black Knights in the title game.