Posted On: 12/16/17 4:15 PM
It was a nail biter in the first round of the Richmond Times Dispatch Invitational that featured private school Life Christian traveling to public powerhouse Varina. Varina got off to a good start behind their home crowd, as they were clicking on both ends and ended the first quarter 18-15. As both teams settled in, we knew we had a good game at break as Varina led 34-32 at halftime.
The second half saw the pace pick up tremendously and Life Christian started to roll behind senior guard Marcus Holman and sophomore forward Marchellus Avery. After 3, the teams were tied at 50 a piece, but that was just the beginning of the drama. The teams traded leads for the next eight minutes, as both offenses picked it up in the second half. Freshman guard AJ Wilson and junior wing Tyrese Jenkins really turned it up for Varina after both having a slow first half, however it looked like LCA was going to pull away late. With 1:30 left, they led 67-65, until Varina tied it up behind a couple of free throws from Williams. LCA senior Derrick Redmon split a pair of free throws, and then Jenkins was fouled on the other end with just six seconds left and he went to the line and split a pair to force overtime.
In overtime, it was back-and-forth as well. Varina pulled ahead by five with a little over a minute left, until Holman knocked down a 25 footer to keep LCA in the game. In the end, the freshman Wilson came up big as he hit a corner three with a little more than 30 seconds left to clinch it for Varina, who moves on in the TDIT after an instant classic, winning 86-80 in overtime.
Here’s some of our takeaways from the game.
MVP | AJ Williams | Varina 2021
Williams not only hit the big corner three to put LCA away, he had a great second half after a cold shooting first half to help lift the Blue Devils to the victory. Williams finished with a team high 20 points, scoring 16 of them in the second half and overtime. He also did a great job setting up others, as he had six assists to lead the team as well. One of the best freshman in the area, Williams is able to play on and off the ball, plays with maturity beyond his years and is one of the best shooters in the area. He finished 4-for-8 from deep, including the biggest shot of the night.
Play of the Game
While Williams shot was the biggest shot of the game, the most highlight worthy play happened in the first quarter from sixth man Jordan Hernandez. Hernandez came off the bench and made an impact quickly, bringing energy to the team with an emphatic slam. On the fast break, Hernandez caught on the left sideline, took a couple dribbles, and went off two feet to meet the LCA big man in the paint. He powered through the contact, finishing above the rim with two hands and the crowd went bananas. It was the epitome of what a “poster” is.
Best Offensive Performer | Marcus Holman | Life Christian 2018
Holman’s ability to shoot it and score the basketball was evident from the beginning and only got better with time. His quarter breakdown went like this: 3 in the first quarter, 9 in the second quarter, 8 in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime. He finished with a game high 30 points, shooting 10-for-17 from the field and 4-for-8 from deep. He played both on and off the ball, he created shots for himself and for others (he finished with 3 assists), and he showed great energy and courage banging down low on the glass. He’s an all out kind of player that hit big shots for them when they needed it and was consistent throughout the game.
Best Defensive Performer | Tyrese Jenkins | Varina 2019
Jenkins, who’s a 6’5″ wing, did a great job defending in the paint with both the Varina big men fouling out and playing limited minutes due to foul trouble. He had three blocks on the game, and finished with a team high 8 rebounds, all but one coming on the defensive end. Jenkins wasn’t just good defensively, he finished with 19 points, 17 of them coming in the second half, and did a great job picking apart the LCA zone at the high post. He was as good as anyone in the second half.
Best Guy off the Bench | Jordan Hernandez | Varina 2019
Hernandez may not start, but he brings in a different dimension for Varina off the bench and will be an integral part for them moving forward. He’s an athletic 6’7″ big man that runs the floor, can play in the midrange and on the block, finishes above the rim and can protect the rim defensively. He struggled with foul trouble, but in the minutes he did play he pitched in 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, and some of his fouls were questionable as they looked like he had a few clean blocks.
Best Intangibles | Kenard Richardson | Varina 2020
From last year to this year, Richardson’s role has changed in a big way. Last year as a freshman, he was the spark plug off the bench, this year he’s one of the most experienced guy on a young team and one of the go-to guys as a starter. He’s improved in a number of ways, including his jump shot, and he was the best player of for Varina in the first half. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, and he also finished the game with five rebounds and three assists.
Best Under the Radar Performer | Derrick Redmon | Life Christian 2018
Redmon had a great second half for LCA, as no one could really stay in front of the quick lefty and when he got it going it was tough for them to stop him. He showed a soft touch in the midrange, with a number of floaters and pull-ups, and he only got better as the game went on. He finished with 16 points, 12 of them coming in the second half, and pitched in five rebounds and three assists.
Best Underclassman | Marchelus Avery | Life Christian 2019
I’m going to keep it simple with this one, Avery, known as “Chi-Chi” by his teammates, is a flat out stud. The 6’6″ forward is a guy who can play inside-out, he has great feel, he’s an athletic finisher above the rim and he attacks the glass ferociously on both ends of the floor. Defensively he can guard on the perimeter, has length and timing as a shot contester and is always in the right place in help side defense. He dominated throughout the game, getting whatever he wanted inside, and finished with an impressive double-double of 24 points and 16 rebounds, while also pitching in three assists and three blocks as well.
Best Coaching Decision
In the second half, Coach Andrew Lacey of Varina put Tyrese Jenkins at the high post against LCA’s zone, and that changed both Jenkins’ and the rest of the team’s game moving forward. Jenkins got hot from the high post, and he was able to look opposite to find shooters and get them going too. It was just what the Blue Devils needed to get their star wing going.
Best Aspect of Environment
The start of the TDIT is what made this game special, as it’s always one of the best tournaments in the state, especially before Christmas. This game summed up what I think about this year, it’s one of the best and most stacked tournaments I’ve seen in my four years of doing this. We’re expecting even more fireworks moving forward!