Posted On: 03/7/18 2:25 PM
The Arthur Ashe Center in Uptown Richmond, VA was jumping as this was the first of two big semifinals. The Class 4 semifinals featured Region A Champions Lake Taylor and Region B Champions Huguenot, and despite Lake Taylor coming with an impressive 23-1 record and being the odds on favorite, the game was played in Huguenot’s backyard, which I have no explanation for and I stopped trying to figure out the VHSL a long time ago.
However the Falcons rode the momentum of the home crowd early, as they played tough inside in the first quarter and held a tight 21-18 lead after one. The Titans started to pick it up in the second quarter, and were leading 41-37 into the break.
The shootout continued in the second half, which is just what Lake Taylor wanted. The Titans are an offensive minded team that likes to get out in transition and play, and it helped negate the size advantage that Huguenot held inside. The game was fast paced and fun to watch the entire time, as both teams competed hard, but in the end Lake Taylor pulled away winning 84-73, earning their second trip to the state championship in the past three seasons.
Titans Played Like the Favorites They Are
It wasn’t pretty at first, as the Titans had dug themselves quite the hole, but Lake Taylor turned it on late in the first half and in the second half to come away with a victory. Their press played a big part in helping them set the tempo and get a lot of easy shots throughout the game. They turned Huguenot over 22 times with 17 of them being live steals that led to them getting out in transition. Most importantly, their senior trio came to play and combined for 71 of their 84 points. They have looked like the favorites in Class 4 all season, and flexed their muscles late in this one.
Huguenot Showed Up to Compete
The Falcons, who finished the season 19-8, got hot at the right time as they ran through Region B and beat Deep Creek out of Chesapeake last weekend to earn a matchup here. Using their size early, the Falcons out rebounded the Titans 22-15 in the first half, and their length really bothered LT at the basket. They had some big time performances from senior DeShawn Ridley and junior Lance Monteiro, and if they hadn’t turned the ball over so much in the first half AND gone cold from the field in the second half they might have been able to pull the upset after all.
Region Players of the Year Battle it Out
Two of the best in Class 4 battled it out in this game, as Region A Player of the Year Dereon Seabron of Lake Taylor and Region B Player of the Year DeShawn Ridley both came to play. Both of them are mismatch four men, and each contributed in big ways.
Seabron did a great job of bringing 6’11” Eric Rustin out of the paint and helping crash the glass to negate Huguenot’s size. He finished with an impressive double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, and if they win the state championship there will be a good chance that he’ll be in the running for Class 4 State Player of the Year.
Ridley was the guy that really helped keep Huguenot in the game, as the 6’5” forward was lights out from the field and showed an incredible motor on both ends of the floor. He finished with 27 points and nine rebounds on the game, going 13-for-15 from the field and grabbing six of those nine rebounds on the offensive end. He’s athletic and strong and picked up an offer from D1 JUCO Wallace State in Alabama.
Joe the Show Shines on the Big Stage
While Seabron had a great game for Lake Taylor, it was Norfolk State commit Joe Bryant Jr. who led the way for Lake Taylor. He finished with a game high 33 points, and was huge in their press as he had four steals. Bryant was efficient from all aspects, as he finished 10-for-20 from the field and 12-for-15 from the line. He does a great job getting to his spots and is adept at making contested shots in the midrange, but he also has a strong build that allows him to finish around the basket in traffic. If he can score it this way from the point guard spot it’s going to be tough to beat them.
Lake Taylor One Win Away from Breaking the Curse
The Lake Taylor Titans have been one of the most talented teams in 4A the past three seasons, and simply haven’t been able to pull it out. Two years ago, they made it all the way to the state championship before falling to Monacan on a game winner at the buzzer. Last season was possibly more tragic, as they didn’t even make it the state tournament as they lost to Smithfield in the first round of regionals after Smithfield hit a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer to upend the top seeded Titans.
With all that being said, Lake Taylor has a chance to snap the curse. They have three seniors who have been starting together for the past three seasons, and they have played like the best team in the state all season long. They’ll have to play a tough John Handley team on Saturday, but expect them to be ready.