During the latter part of this past week, I took the trip down to Petersburg, VA for a final high school hoops event of 2018: the annual ‘Tri-City Holiday Classic.’ Held at Petersburg High School this year, the tournament hosted eight teams from different regions of Virginia for a three-day bracket. I always enjoy attending tournaments like these because it especially gives one a strong perception of teams after watching them play three guaranteed games. The holiday classic unfolded quite nicely, with some of the toughest battles I’ve checked out yet in this winter season.

 

 

Final Scores

 

12/27/18

 Game 1:

St. Christopher’s – 63

Salem HS – 45

 

Game 2:

Petersburg HS – 79

Thomas Jefferson HS – 68

 

Game 3:

Prince George HS – 57

Carmel School – 38

 

Game 4:

Hopewell HS – 67

Freedom HS – 57

 

12/28/18

Consolation Game 1:

Thomas Jefferson HS – 64

Salem HS – 47

 

Consolation Game 2:

Carmel School – 65

Freedom HS – 61

 

Championship Bracket Game 1:

Petersburg HS – 58

St. Christopher’s – 37

 

Championship Bracket Game 2:

Prince George HS – 55

Hopewell HS – 53

 

12/29/18

7th Place Game:

Freedom HS – 56

Salem HS – 40

 

Consolation Championship:

Thomas Jefferson HS – 72

Carmel School – 61

 

3rd place game:

Hopewell HS – 62

St. Christopher’s – 45

 

Tri-City Classic Championship:

Petersburg – 49

Prince George – 44

 

 

A Few Team Notes

  • The host school, Petersburg, gave it their all in protecting the home floor and ultimately ended up victorious as the tournament champions. I honestly feel the Crimson Wave has one of the most underrated rosters I’ve watched play so far. They have solid size in the front court, while their guards/wings work well in getting a mix of transition/paint points and scoring off of perimeter shots. Even with their noteworthy collective talent, Petersburg’s mentality truly proved as their biggest reason for success. There are some straight DOGs within the program who showed clear determination to not lose. In all, I saw a team I honestly feel that Virginia basketball followers should start talking more about it.
  • A Friday night semifinal matchup between Hopewell and Prince George in the championship bracket clearly stood out as the most exciting game of the tournament. Scratch that, it probably was the most electrifying game I’ve seen period so far this year. Similarities in the two teams’ approach on both ends made it such a tightly-played contest that went into overtime; the only game to do so. Both the Blue Devils and Royals have good team chemistry in their offense and can execute either in half-court or fast break styles of play. Defensively, neither team allowed anything easy in the paint, playing each other tough for all of the regulation 32 minutes, in addition to overtime. I saw some impressive rim protectors on the floor who obviously took enjoyment in their role: Jeff Jackson ’19 for Prince George and Izeah Parker ’19 of Hopewell.
  • No other team garnered a greater number of steals and got to the free throw line more effectively than Thomas Jefferson High School. I couldn’t believe the quickness of the Vikings’ backcourt… they truly have gifted speed and didn’t ever hesitate to show it. If any opposing team ever played loosely with the ball for a mere second, one could expect Thomas Jefferson to come up with the turnover. Freedom High School comes as a close second, but the Vikings proved as the best standout team in forcing turnovers pretty much at will. This didn’t just emerge from collecting steals either; Thomas Jefferson earned charge calls frequently as well. Their starting three-man, Orlando Davis ’19, drew more than any other player during the event.
  • The Carmel Wildcats didn’t really start off the games how they wanted but nonetheless sustained a focus to always make a push in the second half if they ever caught themselves down by a big margin. They can get hot in some stretches and cold in others. This may sound kind of odd, but I honestly feel the team tries to play a bit too unselfishly at times and passes up on earlier offensive looks. They do a stellar job of letting the game come naturally, without question, but looked better when playing at a faster speed compared to patiently trying to create a look. I think they inadvertently used up more time on the clock than they meant to. Regardless, many in the stands will appreciate the emphasis of team ball within the Wildcats’ program and I’m confident they’ll continue to make strides heading into the New Year.

 

 

My Seven Tournament Standouts

 

D’Monte Brown ’19 – Petersburg: The tournament MVP started things off strongly when he exploded for a team-high 26 points in his team’s opening first-round victory. Brown’s a lengthy 6’2” scoring guard/wing that used his body control well to make finishes at the rim, whether he had to go through or past defenders. He has a clear confidence in his game and delivered the most for his team whenever they needed a bucket. Shooting-wise, his shot looked a bit slow and definitely streaky. Still, he has the capabilities to hunt down and make shots, so defenders need to respect that notion. Take notice of the unsigned senior!

 

Teon Tiller ’19 – Thomas Jefferson: After posting 36 points in his first game, a higher point total than anyone else finished with throughout the event, Tiller went on to score more overall points than any other player in the tournament during his final two games. My pick as the best two-way guard goes to him… one could argue that his defense looked just as good as his offense. When I mentioned earlier how the Vikings kept gathering steal after steal, Tiller was the main reason for this; him and his back court mate, Mohammed Mahadi ’20, displayed an incredible nose for the ball and instincts to make their opponents pay if they got caught slipping. A guy who showed a tendency to make his way toward the rim whenever he saw an opening, Tiller also looked as the best player in drawing fouls. He can work on his free throws a bit more, however, as they should keep occurring with his style of play.

 

Jajour Lambert ’19 – Prince George: Lambert probably had the best burst of speed going downhill within the tournament. While Prince George plays him more off-ball due to his scoring prowess, I felt the senior looked good as a playmaker for others in several instances as well. His way of getting into the lane led to him finding front court teammates often for finishes whenever they rolled hard to the rim. Putting points up on the board comes probably the easiest for Lambert on the Royals’ roster so I see him continuing to play one of the most important roles as a leader who gets their offense going. If guys ever become stagnant, I recommend getting the ball to Lambert and letting him operate. He didn’t shoot the ball too well during the tournament but his crafty way of getting into the lane for finishes over bigger opponents more than made up for it. A special talent in Prince George County.

 

Elvin Edmonds ’21 – Hopewell: A top 2021 recruit in Virginia, the young Hopewell lead guard played with such a calm demeanor that one could quickly forget he’s only a sophomore. There’s a handful of improvements within Edmonds’ game that look good: he’s stronger, has a better handle of the ball, and gets more paint touches now. Known as a deadly shooter, Edmonds put on a clinic of facilitating the ball to his other teammates, especially in the first game when his shot wasn’t falling. His control of the Blue Devils’ tempo and solid size makes it difficult to play him in a certain way. He can either hurt opposing teams with his shooting or putting it on the floor to get at the rim with either hand once he realizes the team needs him to score. His off-hand finishing looked just as good, if not, better than anyone else. Edmonds way of suddenly being able to take over a game looked most evident in the overtime semifinal matchup against Prince George, as he kept his team in it during the second half and finished with 24 points, six rebounds, and eight steals.

 

Iziah Alexander ‘19 – Carmel: The Wildcats’ stocky forward was the team’s best rebounder and one of the strongest finishers throughout the tournament. Alexander’s size makes him near-impossible to keep out of the lane once he takes 1-2 dribbles to make his way in there; he plays the best “bully ball” for Carmel. In addition, he has some sneaky athleticism and grace in the way he plays as a slasher. I think Carmel should continue to use him in even more possible ways to expose mismatches and earn paint points. He didn’t take many jumpers; something that can take his offensive game to a greater height, as opponents really won’t know how to play him then. Defenses will play him short if he doesn’t show an outside threat as a shooter.

 

Tavian Morris ’20 – Prince George: In the Hopewell vs. Prince George game, nobody made more clutch plays the Royals’ 6’2” junior guard/wing. From the fourth quarter to overtime, Morris continued to make tough shot after tough shot in trying to do whatever possible for his team so they could get the victory. I saw him as Prince George’s best three-level scorer and another one, like Lambert, who can give them an offensive spark whenever things start lacking on that end. In the tournament championship game, Morris again had one of the best showings. Getting to the basket for strong finishes appears his best asset, along with being able to knock shots down, especially from closer range. I feel like he’s pretty under the radar right now as a 2020 prospect and should start receiving more attention as he continues to perform this way.

 

Cameron Kearney ’22 – Salem: One of the youngest starters within the tournament, Kearney gave Salem one of their lone bright spots as the team struggled, going 0-3. I had several takeaways of the young wing. For starters, he already stands at 6’4” and is more than likely still growing into his body. He’s still pretty raw and learning how to truly play the game but already impresses with an on-court feel that resembles that of a veteran. He uses his length well to finish with long strides in transition, can create his own shot with hesitation pull-ups, rebounds, draws fouls, and, above all, competes. I felt his competitive nature and passion stood out the most on Salem’s roster. If he continues to keep sharpening up some things, we can see a great talent emerging out of Kearney throughout his development.

 

 

 

 

 

2018 had some great basketball games and team events put on. Looking forward to seeing what the second half of the season in 2019 has to offer!