By: Evan Rogers

The third day of the John Wall Holiday Invitational featured a number of high-stakes contests. Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy players and some insight on their performances. 

2024 Zion Walker (The Burlington School)

In The Burlington School’s win over Raleigh Christian Academy, the Spartans’ grit was on full display. Behind the physical play of their lead guard, Zion Walker, the Spartans’ full-court press led the way for their win. Walker engineered the key play of the game, as his assist to Ty Outlaw resulted in the game-winning layup at the buzzer. According to head coach George Marshall, Walker’s end of game decision making was essential to his team’s comeback victory.  

“The goal was (to) get the ball to Zion (Walker) and then attack, because we knew we were in the bonus,” Marshall said. “Zion made a great decision on that last play. I think that there are some other times, and he admittedly would tell you, that he struggled with his decision making today. But he made the biggest play when it mattered most.”

2024 Austin Swartz (Cannon)

Cannon rebounded from its opening-game loss on Wednesday with a dominant win over Greenfield. Austin Swartz’s high-major play has been on full display all week, and Thursday afternoon proved to be no different. The prolific guard got to his spots at an efficient rate and finished with a game-high 16 points. But even more impressive was the workhorse guard’s ability to get his teammates involved, as Swartz ended the first half with nine assists and eventually secured a double-double in the third period.

“I think (playmaking) has been the biggest adjustment for (Swartz) this year,” Cannon head coach Ché Roth said. “He’s showing that he’s a total playmaker and he’s averaging a shade under eight assists per game for the season. When the ball pops like that — and he can score it — it opens up the floor. I also think it shows his ability to show his vision and his unselfishness.”

2023 Freddie Dilione 

In Word of God’s come-from-behind victory over Winston-Salem Christian, Freddie Dilione was one of many Holy Rams to have impactful games. The Tenneesse commit showcased an elite ability to create his shot when called upon and Dilione’s offensive impact loomed large for Word of God. But the four-star prospect was sidelined numerous times due to cramps, something Dilione noted he will need to improve upon before Friday’s championship game.

“First of all, I need to take care of my body better,” Dilione said. “It feels good to win — win that game. Now we have another game tomorrow that’s going to be (even) bigger.”

2026 Tyran Stokes (Prolific Prep)

Though much of the hype surrounding Prolific Prep comes from The Crew’s dynamic guard play, Tyran Stokes’ efficient game from the wing helped advance his team to the championship. After scoring four points in Wednesday’s quarterfinal contest, the budding youngster converted multiple highlight-reel dunks en route to 17 points on 80 percent shooting from the field. For Stokes, being one of the youngest players in the tournament doesn’t rattle him.

“I’m very comfortable (on the court),” Stokes said. “My teammates, they help me off the court — get me hyped up before the game. In the locker room they tell me, ‘If you want the ball, call for it.’ So, they hold me down.”

2024 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco)

After scoring 24 points in Don Bosco’s opening contest a day ago, Dylan Harper delivered an efficient, 28-point performance in the Ironmen’s semifinal win over nationally-ranked Centennial. The game appears to come easy for Harper at times, as he possesses a fluid jumper that’s lethal from all over the court and the five-star prospect has the ability to get downhill at will. For Don Bosco and Harper, the season-defining victory is something they hope puts the Ironmen on the map nationally. 

“I really think it shows that we can compete with anyone in the country,” Harper said. “We came out here thinking that just because (Centennial) was ranked No. 10, it really doesn’t mean anything. We play every opponent the same way. So I feel like that was really big for us, and we came out executing.”