It was a battle of Northern Virginia vs. Richmond on Wednesday night, as the Titans of Trinity Episcopal made the trip up to Dumfries, VA for an evening showdown against Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School. A good crowd showed up for the Wolves' home opener and the energy within the gym persisted all night long. Being the first official regular-season game of the school year that I had a chance to cover, this one had me anticipating it since the beginning of the week. Only the first glimpse of what high school hoops has to offer this season.
Trinity Episcopal ' 84
Saint John Paul the Great ' 65
- TES got offensive looks into their interior presence at a greater rate than I've seen from them in the preseason. I figured that their size would give them an advantage entering this matchup so it definitely satisfied to see them make the most of their opportunities. Getting paint points should work for them plenty of more times throughout this season.
- Perimeter shooting didn't go very well for SJPG on Wednesday night but they indeed got a ton of paint touches and drew fouls exceptionally well. The speed and aggressive nature of the Wolves' guards can make them a threat in keeping plenty of other teams on their heels. If they have an opportunity to go' best believe, they will GO.
- Both teams showed some looks in a slight full-court press. This occurred not long into the first half and again once the second half got underway. It being this early in the season, obviously both programs will need to keep putting in the work to make sure all players understand how to execute team defensive pressure properly. Still, the grit and activity of the guards from both TES and SJPG showed some promising signs as ones who can make a lot of future foes uncomfortable.
- TES simply does best when they patiently move the ball around. This type of play allowed them to take a large lead in the second quarter. However, when they try to rush and force the issue in transition and/or half-court play, turnovers start to accumulate. I noticed this while watching them play in the preseason. The more they learn to not play out of control, the greater their chances of dominating games emerge.
- SJPG impressed with some toughness shown on both ends. Head coach Angelo Hunt has a hard-nosed bunch with some edge to them in how they refuse to let anything intimidate or completely take them out of rhythm. With some strong TES players charging at them, the Wolves smartly caused a lot of charge calls. On the rebounding side of things, their hustle never ceased in fighting to get second-chance points.
Standouts of the Evening
Burke Smith '20 ' TES: The 6'11 forward started his junior season off with a bang by exploding for an efficient 24 points, to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks. Smith can have many more nights like this moving forward in how he effortlessly moves around the court at his size. He rolled hard to the rim, took his time on finishes, used his wingspan well on both ends, and provided a more vocal presence for his team. In the second quarter, he completely took over on an offensive outburst and increased his team's lead to over 16 points. By far, the most impressive performance I've seen from him thus far. I feel Wednesday night showed many in attendance how the confident junior is ready for a breakout year.
DJ Slaughter '20 ' SJPG: I didn't get a chance to see Slaughter during my open gym visit up to SJPG but indeed knew how big of a role he would play. He returned as the team's leading scorer from last season. On both ends, Slaughter made an impact, illustrated by his competitiveness that never diminished. He attacked the rim in either direction and resulted in earning some of the most FT attempts out of anyone else in the gym. His handle plays a big reason in him getting a piece of the paint at will and should make him a solid playmaker for the Wolves. Defensively, he stuck to his man well and generated some uneasiness at times. The 6'0' guard's jump shots resulted a bit short but I'm confident it'll continue to improve as the games continue on.
Henry Coleman '20 ' TES: As usual, defenders couldn't find an answer for Coleman once he made his way toward the rim. The nationally-ranked recruit showed spurts of dominance that will make him one of the biggest threats in the Richmond area all season long. Now, as more of a primary scorer for the Titans, Coleman looks more comfortable in making plays and acting as an enforcer within TES' offense. He rebounded the ball better than anyone else in the gym and used his body control extremely well to convert AND-1 finishes. Coleman finished the game with 22 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, and five assists.
Jared Perry '19 ' SJPG: The senior scoring guard had more of a quiet first half but really started off the third quarter strong in showcasing his three-level offensive game. Perry smartly sizes up his opponents to quickly determine the proper move to make, whether it'd be attacking the rim, creating off of the bounce, or releasing for a triple. His defense kept improving as the game went on as well. He's not the quickest guy but uses his IQ well to pre-determine what moves others may make. I think his squad will find themselves leaning on him more and more for offensive production as the months go on. He and Slaughter can make up for a duo scoring threat in the backcourt. Perry finished the night with 11 points and a few assists.
Erik Prosise '21 ' TES: Making his official debut for the Titans, the young combo guard caught fire in the first half that made him difficult to contain. Prosise shot the ball quite well from three-point territory and used his hesitation moves well to get looks at the rim. He has a good 'stop-and-go' style when handling the rock that kept the Wolves' guards frequently guessing what next move he would make. With his ability to create space and offensive looks for himself, Prosise gives TES another reliable piece of their offense. If he can continue to shine like this, I expect him to develop into one of the top guards in the Prep League, whether it'd be this season or in the years to come. Finished with 12 points.
Cortez Lewis '20 ' SJPG: A new face and two-sport athlete in the school, Lewis gives SJPG a big addition as a strong guard/wing who loves to embrace contact. He recently just finished up his junior season in football so I guess it's not all that surprising to see how he plays with a full head of steam and looked to take anyone to the rim. Similar to Slaughter, Lewis excelled best at getting to the FT line and completed the majority of his chances. He rebounded the ball solidly and showed an ability to get downhill as a one-man fast break. Shooting will still need to improve. His comfort within his new Wolves family looked evident and he started his season off in stellar fashion by scoring a team-high 15 points.
A lot of great opening games occurring this week!