Posted On: 03/5/18 9:25 AM
We have finally reached the Final Four in the VHSL 3A State Tournament. While many may not have expected this quartet, the 3A region features some of the best talent in the state heading into this final week of basketball. Here we will take an individual look at each team, from it’s star players, keys to winning, and overall outlook.
Northside Vikings (29-0)
About Northside: Northside is the only remaining undefeated team in the state, and was the first to punch its ticket to the state tournament, with a convincing, 72-47 win over last year’s state champion runner-up, Spotswood. The Vikings feature 6’6, big man, Julien Wooden, a junior, with a high basketball IQ, that also has the ability to shoot the jumper, or attack straight at the rim. Julien has been a varsity player his whole high school career, and has improved his game significantly in each season. In addition to Wooden, the Vikings also feature, Kasey Draper, a 6’4 guard, who can not only handle the basketball, but also score when needed, and provide Northside with an additional scoring threat when necessary. Draper has also seen his numbers increase significantly this season, averaging a little over 17ppg, after only averaging 6.6ppg last season. And finally, the Vikings most valuable player, Nick Price. Price, the senior point guard, who has been running the show for the Vikings since he was a freshman, and has a 103-15 record throughout his career, has always been a leader, but as the senior show runner, he has shown just why he has the ability to lead Northside to an undefeated season, and a state championship. Price is one of the quickest guards 3A, or the state has to offer, can drive the lane, or make plays for the other key players in Draper and Wooden. On the other side, defensively, Price is not afraid to get scrappy, and is often the cause of many of his opponents turnovers, another upside he posses. The Vikings will look to defeat West Albermarle, before they can head to the 3A State Championship game.
George Wythe Bulldogs (21-3)
About George Wythe: The George Wythe Bulldogs enter the Final Four with a huge, comeback win over Hopewell, Friday, March 2nd. In a game where Hopewell came out scoring fast, and early, things did not look too good for the Bulldogs, but after some halftime adjustments, the Bulldogs went on to score 39 points, and hold Hopewell to just 22 points, after a halftime score of 42-29. The Bulldogs feature hard nose guard, Jarec Brown. Brown has been an essential component to the Bulldogs state championship run, and really made the difference in Friday night’s win, scoring a game high, 28 points, with the game winning basket. Brown, a senior leader, who has been one of the best players the Bulldogs have to offer for the past two seasons, is a 6’3, player, who’s size is always an advantage for him. Brown, who intends to prep after this season, has a high basketball IQ, with the ability to create shots for his teammates, or take over the game when the Bulldogs have found themselves in trouble. The Bulldogs also feature sophomore, Ikechi Chantilou. On a senior heavy squad, Chantilou, who as poised as a sophomore could be, also shows signs of leadership, and the makings of a player with a high ceiling. At 6’3, Chantilou is a quick guard, with freakish bounce ability, that averaged 12 points off the bench last season as a freshman, and is now coming further into himself as a sophomore. Chantilou was essential in the Bulldogs win over Hopewell, scoring 12 points in the 4th Quarter, and tying the game for the Bulldogs. Whether he is flying to the basket for the dunk, or pulling up for the jumper, Chantilou is an additional scoring threat that can cause problems. The Bulldogs will face John Marshall, in a rematch of the Region B Championship. The winner will go on to face either Northside or West Albemarle in the State Championship game.
Western Albemarle (21-6)
About Western Albemarle: The West Albemarle Warriors may just be the underdog team coming into the 3A State Championship Final Four. The Warriors defeated Spotswood, to win the Region C championship, and then defeated Hidden Valley, in the last seconds, to be in this position. The Warriors feature sophomore, Tommy Mangrum, who hit the game winning shot against Hidden Valley, and scored a team high, 14 points. Mangrum has led the Warriors in its last two games. The sophomore is a 6’2 big, that has provided the size the Warriors have lacked in past years, in addition to sophomore, Garrett Payne, who is listed at 6’6. With both Mangrum and Payne in the middle, the two’s athleticism provide an upside for Western Albemarle. In addition to the two big men, role players in, Charlie Weyher, and Chris McGahren, have the Warriors in position to win a state championship, a position that many did not have the Warriors in. The squad, known for their shooting ability, have added some size in the paint, and have became more than just a shooting squad. With the big wins over Spotswood, a team who has knocked the Warriors off in the past two seasons, and the last second shot against Hidden Valley, shows this maybe the year of destiny for the Warriors. The Warriors will have probably their hardest test of the season, facing undefeated Northside in the state semifinals on Tuesday.
John Marshall (21-6)
About John Marshall: Isaiah Todd. Considered by many to be the #1 Prospect in the Class of 2020, the John Marshall Justices feature this star, in addition to PG, Levar Allen, SG Demarr McRae, and one of the best benches the state has to offer. The Justices won a dog fight over the Phoebus Phantoms, to punch their ticket to the Final Four. Todd, a 6’10 forward, who can handle the ball like a point guard, shoot the ball like a shooting guard, and defend in the paint like the big man he is. With point guard, Levar Allen, also known as “The Bully” running the show, with his quickness and ability to get past defenders to the cup, or the athleticism of Demarr McRae, a player who doesn’t mind stepping up when the Justices need him to, the trio of Todd, Allen, and McRae maybe the best 3A has left to offer. The Justices starting line up features no seniors, with McRae being the most experienced, a junior, who has started since his freshman year. It is this experience that helped McRae score 11 straight in the 4th quarter, and a big block on the defensive end, that would eventually seal a close game for John Marshall, and put them in this Final Four position. In addition to the trio, Elijah Seward is a common spark off the bench for John Marshall, with his 3 point shooting ability, and athleticism at the rim. The Justices, who won a state championship in 2014, and only losses this season have come against nationally ranked squads, the Justices maybe more prepared than any team for a state championship. The Justices will face cross town rival, George Wythe, for the third time this season, in hopes of getting to the state championship game.