Ok, so I got a sense back in December that the boys’ varsity team of St. Stephen’s St. Agnes School (SSSAS) would be a force in Alexandria, VA after observing them for the first time in their annually-hosted ‘Sleepy Thompson Tournament’ (12/6/18-12/8/18). The Saints blew through all of the other talented competition in a seemingly effortless manner, ultimately winning the tournament title. I remember noting some special traits within the depth-heavy roster and recognizing they could make another deep run into the postseason.
Still, I must admit that SSSAS’ ending to this 2019 season exceeded my own initial predictions.
A little over two weeks ago, the team finished at the top of the state when they took home the Virginia Independent Schools Athletics Association (VISSA) Division I state crown. It resulted as the Saints’ first state championship win in 29 years, as they ended with an overall record of 26-3 and ranked #2 in Virginia. One could also say it was a ‘season of hardware’ for SSSAS, noting they collected trophies of the VISAA state tournament, ‘Sleepy Thompson,’ and the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) championship. In addition, four upperclassmen landed spots on the All-IAC team. Among them included lead guard Xavier Lipscomb ’20 (his second consecutive All-IAC nod), who once again played a big role as the initiator of one of the most talented teams in school history.
A returning starter, the 6’2” Lipscomb had an important position on the team as a guy who could run the show. His combination of basketball IQ and versatility resulted in season averages of 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. When acknowledging all that Lipscomb can do with the ball in his hands, I guess one could try to argue that he made some sacrifices, scoring-wise, as a pure point guard. I’ve seen the junior play summer ball for the last three years, however, and can assure that his winning mentality doesn’t include point-hunting.
“The coaches explained to me in the beginning of the season how, as the main guard, this was my team and I would have to be able to lead them from day one,” the floor general explained.
I doubt most have questioned Lipscomb’s leadership ever since he’s stepped into the SSSAS program; expressed by his consistent vocal instruction and effort. In my eyes, his most valuable trait involves an approach of always making sure to make the right play. The smoothness of SSSAS’ offense played a large part to Lipscomb’s decision-making. His way of thinking the game already reminds me that of a college point guard. Those intangibles arrive naturally; something one cannot teach.
With plenty of guys returning back from last year’s group, I’m sure the Saints had raised expectations to find further success after they fell in the semifinals of the VISAA state tournament last March. For those still wondering what specifically proved as the difference in the team piling on such a dominant season, they should turn to Lipscomb for answers.
“Well, if anything, I feel it was our depth as a team. As you look down the roster, we had a 15-man squad that showed anyone could play at any time and produce. Also, our love for each other played an important role. Everyone was happy to see a teammate(s) succeed on the court.”
Yes, that depth remained the #1 factor of what I personally considered one of the biggest strengths of SSSAS all season long. I actually happened to have a seat at a press table right next to their bench when they won the state title game at Virginia State University (VSU). They didn’t say too much once the horn sounded, but the many grins on their faces silently stated one thing: mission accomplished.
“Man, that feeling was great! All the hard work that we put in during the summer time and preseason workouts payed off.”
Along with a state title on the lane, the Saints also had a test of defending their rivalry record against another foe in the city, Episcopal High School. The VISAA championship happened to be the fifth meeting between the two programs in this season alone, as SSSAS won all five matchups. Episcopal had a great run in their state tournament appearance, representing one of six IAC schools. If unfamiliar with the conference, many in the DMV area can detail how serious its approach to basketball can become.
“Yeah, the IAC is a great conference. All the teams come out and compete ever night. No game is a cake walk.”
Lipscomb especially played great basketball during those two nights at VSU. He never forced the issue and made sure to get all of SSSAS’ scoring wings/forwards involved, whom clearly played with high confidence. Lipscomb can rebound and pitch the ball ahead in transition with ease, while also sometimes just taking it coast-to-coast himself. As a lefty, he can attack in either direction and knows how to slow down for finishes with body control. Defensively, he stayed locked in to make other ball-handlers uncomfortable and showed he can guard for a good length of the floor. His aggressiveness and 190 lb. frame also helped him make many trips to the free-throw line when he attacked other opposing guards. When talking about his two-way style of play and court vision, I’d say he stood out equally to any other point guard I saw in that Final Four bracket of the tournament.
“I feel that my best ability is to get others involved. Honestly, I think defense might be the most underrated part of my game right now. I love to study Damian Lillard and LeBron James; Lillard for his scoring and LeBron for his passing.”
Now, with a state ring added to his resume, Lipscomb can soon turn his focus into the spring/summer offseason; one of the most valuable times of the year for players to hone his/her skills. To get ready for a potential playing opportunity post-high school, the gym rat has the right idea in acknowledging what areas of his game need more polishing.
“One thing I want to improve is my shooting, as I know guards at the next level must be able to run a team, while also having an ability to knock down shots.”
Speaking of the next level, Lipscomb’s current recruitment hasn’t made too much noise, which surprises me honestly. When considering his frame and how he delivers on the court night in and night out, I would imagine more coaches would show up knocking at his door. Regardless, Lipscomb’s focus keeps his future bright, as he’ll only continue to develop as one of the best point guards in VISAA Div. I basketball. I also feel this recent state championship win might attract some more attention toward his way.
“I only have one offer from Navy at the moment, along with a couple of mid and low majors looking at me. I plan to take some unofficial and official visits in the summer.”
Other than that, expect Lipscomb to spend most of his summer break on the hardwood. It seems like he’s always playing basketball, even when technically not in the gym; he’s big on NBA 2k, gaming online with friends whenever spare time becomes available. The life of a true hooper. I’m excited to see how his process ultimately results.
Cool, cool; but where does Xavier Lipscomb see himself in ten years?
“Ten years from now, if I am not hooping, I will probably be an accountant or a sports agent.”
As I’m finishing this up, I just noticed that Xavier received a selection on the 2019 VISAA All-State Second Team today (3/19). Congratulations and well-deserved!