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Posted On: 03/9/18 9:30 AM
It was an instant classic in the first VHSL State Championship of the year, as Varina took on Wakefield in the Class 5 State Title. Wakefield jumped out early, showing their experience in their second straight state title appearance. They led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, and doubled up that lead and headed into halftime with a lot of momentum, up 31-23 at half.
It looked like they would continue that momentum early in the second half, as they extended their lead to 11 out of half, but the Blue Devils started to rally. They cut the deficit to just 2 with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and were down just four heading into the fourth.
Varina took off in the beginning of the fourth, going on an 11-2 run to start the quarter. The Blue Devils made the plays necessary down the stretch, including sinking four free throws in the last 10 seconds to hold on in the comeback, winning the game 64-60, giving Varina their first ever state championship.
Here’s a look at some of the best performances in the game.
MVP: Tyrese Jenkins | Varina 2019
From the beginning of the game, Jenkins was huge both on the court and in the locker room as a leader. The 6’5” junior is one of the most experienced guys on a young Varina team kept them close in the first half, and right when momentum looked like it was heading in Wakefield’s direction after the start of the second half he made some big plays to get it swinging back toward Varina. Look below for some more on Jenkin’s impact on the game.
Play of the Game
Their were quite a few plays that deserve recognition, but if I had to pick one play of the game it would have to go to Wakefield junior Jared Watkins for his monster throw down right before the half. On a long rebound, Watkins took off, sized up a bigger defender for Varina and turned it over with one hand, giving the Warriors an eight point lead and sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy.
Best Offensive Performer: Tyrese Jenkins | Varina 2019
Talk about efficiency, Jenkins finished with 21 points on just eight shots from the field, going 6-for-8 from the floor and 7-for-8 from the line. He did a little bit of everything, as he scored from the midrange (which is his specialty), but also hit two threes and used his size in the paint to get to finish at the basket and get to the line. He also pitched in eight rebounds and two assists, doing a little bit of everything to help his team win.
Best Defensive Performer: Amari Cooper | Wakefield 2018
He was keyed on defensively for Varina throughout the game, and it affected him as he only scored nine points, but he made plays on both ends to help his team. He pulled in a game high 10 rebounds, with eight of them coming on the defensive end, and he also pitched in three steals. He had a huge steal with 45 seconds left, but couldn’t convert that would have tied the game.
Best Guy off the Bench: Jared Watkins | Wakefield 2019
He had the huge dunk to help his team gain momentum, but he also provided 12 minutes of mistake free basketball off the bench where he competed on both ends. He finished with four points on 2-for-2 shooting from the field, and also pitched in a rebound, an assist and a steal, and was one of their primary ball handlers without committing a single turnover.
Best Under the Radar Performer: Robert Starkey | Wakefield 2019
Starkey stepped up in the biggest of ways for the Warriors, as he had his career high in the state championship game against a team with good length and athleticism on the block. The stocky 6’5” big man showed great touch with both hands around the basket, carved out space with easy and finished with regularity in traffic. He finished with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field.
Best Intangibles: Lukas Hatcher | Wakefield 2018
A tough nosed lead guard, Hatcher’s impact is seen well beyond the scorebook. He competed on both ends of the floor, fought for loose balls and showed great leadership throughout the game.
Best Underclassman: AJ Williams | Varina 2021
There’s something to be said about a freshman point guard leading his team to the state championship, and that is that this kid is not your average freshman. Williams made the first basket for Varina, and he hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to help seal the game for them. He hit a huge three in transition to stretch the lead to two possessions with 4:30 left, showing he wasn’t afraid of the big stage one bit. He finished with 17 points on the game, 11 of them coming in the second half.
Best 4th Quarter Performer: Kenard Richardson | Varina 2019
Richardson had a tough start to the game, but he stepped it up big time in the fourth quarter. He scored eight straight points for Varina in one of the key stretches of the game, and he finished with 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. Richardson’s toughness late in the game was a big reason they were able to complete the comeback.
Best Crowd Moment
Despite the loss, the Wakefield crowd had a big impact as they traveled into Varina territory and filled up one of the sections behind the basket at the Siegel Center. They weren’t just there for show either, they found a way to impact the game. At the end of both the first and second quarter, Varina was holding for one shot, and the Wakefield students starting chanting down from five when there was 10 seconds left. The Blue Devils fell for it both times, taking ill advised shots with time still remaining, making for one of the better crowd moments I’ve seen in my four years covering the state championships.