Colleges in Attendance: George Mason University
The VISAA state tournament officially began yesterday evening with a handful of first-round games taking place across the state. Honestly, it took me a while to choose which contest to attend; a total of twelve VISAA games, between the divisions of I, II, and III, all occurred on Tuesday. Eventually, I decided on making my way up north to the beautiful campus of Episcopal High School (Alexandria, VA). This decision mainly stemmed from the fact that I would have the chance to catch a doubleheader in VISAA Division I. My first, and most recent, time checking out the Episcopal Maroons boys team took place back in the first week of December, when they participated in the annual ‘Sleepy Thompson Tournament’ and made an appearance in the championship game. Head coach Jim Fitzpatrick’s squad impressed back then, but looks even better now in postseason mode; evident by a blowout victory against Norfolk Academy (Norfolk, VA) yesterday. The Maroons move on to face #4 Flint Hill today (2/27) on the road at 5 p.m.
Episcopal – 70
Norfolk Academy – 38
Some Game/Team Notes
- Episcopal has a bunch who looked complete on both ends. They have some solid size, with four guys over 6’6” and did really well in contesting shots around the rim, along with boxing out for defensive rebounds. The Maroons look most confident and at their best when they start a fast break; I tweeted how they like to ‘get it and GO.’ It’s no surprise to see why they’ve been ranked as a top 5 team in VISAA Division I. Still, I honestly wouldn’t feel too much shock if they end up knocking off a higher seed as they compete further into this tournament. They have the total package in a roster who steps on the court with no doubt in their minds.
- Norfolk Academy got into a hole early on by rushing passes, resulting in turnovers, against Episcopal’s full-court press. A serious lack of shot-making led to them only making six points in the opening quarter. Late in the second period, they looked much better, as they started to find more of a rhythm from three-point territory and finished at a greater rate in transition. They scored on some paint points and made a few trips to the free-throw line as well, during that stretch.
- Against Norfolk Academy’s zone defense, Episcopal moved the ball around the perimeter in a highly effective manner to exploit holes in the opposing defense. I stated above that the Maroons play their best ball in transition, but their success in the half-court stood out fairly equally. They got Norfolk Academy in a scramble by their quickly-zipped passes to find a proper/open look, which they capitalized on more often than not. The team’s capability of scoring in different ways/sets makes them one of the more likely teams in their classification to score over 80+ multiple times.
- Overall, Norfolk Academy could never really get into a strong offensive flow. They only totaled 38 team points and just couldn’t get shots to fall from the perimeter. Turnovers continued to hurt them in the second half and helped Episcopal extend their lead to a wide margin, thus putting the game out of reach. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs will return a handful of important pieces back to their program next season and should once again find themselves in playoff-talk.
Tuesday Night Standouts
Tymu Chenery ’20 – Episcopal: The 6’6” wing showed a little bit of everything on both ends during his energetic performance in the Maroons’ win. Shooting with range, attacking/finishing in transition, rebounding, playing tough defense, you name it. Chenery had the look of a confident, all-around player and gave his team a big boost throughout both halves of play. He also passes the ‘eye test’ with his solid basketball frame, wingspan, and stride on the floor. Episcopal has plenty of talent, of course, but I feel that Chenery’s a guy who can go off to take over a game whenever he has a bunch opportunities to make plays with the ball. He’s the team’s best overall athlete and should be on the 2020 prospect list for many college coaches if they haven’t already heard about him.
Xavier Johnson ’19 – Episcopal: Playing in front of his future George Mason coaches, the 6’1” senior guard showed his usual reliability as a strong playmaker who gets his points while also involving his teammates in the offense. Johnson plays some of the most importance in Episcopal’s game plan; he has the most experience on the team and especially knows how to make winning plays constantly. He knocked down a few three-pointers in the second half, most of which happened from well beyond the line, around NBA-range. One thing that stands out about the combo guard pertains to how he can go up to meet opponents at the rim for blocked shots. At his height and position, he gives off an intimidating presence in this particular skill. The Maroons are in safe hands with their veteran leader leading the way; he simply has ‘it.’
Mark Williams ’20 – Norfolk Academy: The four-star seven-footer didn’t have his best night, yet still showed several abilities that one doesn’t see often from most guys at that size. This being my first time watching Williams in action, I took note of how well he can facilitate around the perimeter. In several instances, he saw his teammates out of the corner of his eye cutting to the basket (opposite side or backdoor) for quick scores. His length allows him to act as a strong defensive presence and make opponents second-guess when they meet him at the rim. The junior forward also drew fouls well when he posted up hard to make moves inside. While at the free-throw line, he had a nice touch on his release. The main next step for Williams involves improving his motor. Doing that will make him an even greater force that few can handle.
Darius Johnson ’21 – Episcopal: The younger Johnson (related to Xavier) has a game similar to his brother’s and a feel for the court pretty atypical of a normal underclassman player. Johnson can heat up quickly and shoots with serious confidence whenever he finds himself open. His anticipation to pick up steals looked better than anyone else for Episcopal; he leads the team in steals with 2.4 a game. Athletically, Johnson has some solid tools and uses his body control best when making a play at the rim for crafty finishes. Once he and Xavier both start feeling it at the same time… they turn into one of the more dangerous back-court duos in the state. George Mason has already offered Darius, whose recruitment I’m expecting to take a huge leap quite soon. Based on the three games I’ve watched him partake in, his overall talent has looked just as good as any other 2021 prospect I’ve come across.
Jack Fitzpatrick ’20 – Episcopal: The 5’10” guard helped Episcopal get off to their hot start by scoring eight out of the team’s first ten points, all in a row. Fitzpatrick not only has a good-looking form in his shot, but can take over a role of facilitating well in his team’s offense to get other shooters, like the Johnson brothers, open. He also stood out in starting the Maroons’ fast breaks; I remember him throwing a full-court haul to Chenery one time for a transition bucket. Fitzpatrick has some good skills with the ball and additional strength that helps him overpower smaller guards who try to neutralize him. His way of thinking the game and making good decisions plays another key component in Episcopal’s success. You always want a guy like that on the team.
Be sure to also check out my recap on the Girls’ side of the VISAA first-round from Tuesday night!; (Saint John Paul the Great Catholic HS vs. Episcopal HS, 2/26/19)