WILLIAMSBURG –Walsingham Academy’s boys basketball team keeps figuring out ways to win big games, powered by the sophomore trio of Sam Jones, Jaylin Stewart and Tariq Balogun.
Seventh-seeded Walsingham advanced to the second round of the VISAA Division 2 tournament on Tuesday, eliminating St. Anne’s Belfield of Charlottesville, 62-57. The Trojans earned a date Wednesday at second-seeded Miller School of Charlottesville in the quarterfinals.
“Coach says we have nothing to lose,” Jones said. “Just go all out.”
Jones led Walsingham (19-10) with 20 points Tuesday, scoring most of his points around the basket including a flurry of transition buckets in the first quarter.
Jones, who snagged five steals, was also 4-for-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter as the Trojans held off a late STAB charge after controlling the second half until midway through the final period.
Stewart, who added 17 points and nine rebounds, entered the season as Walsingham’s top returning scorer and 6-foot-9 English product Balogun is in his first season with the program.
Jones, 6-1, has been something of a revelation for the Trojans; a sneaky-good player with a knack for making plays.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Walsingham coach Billy Barnes said. “He has become a guy that we can’t have off the court very long. He’s been skilled, but he just plays harder than everybody. He just goes for it.”
Jones and senior point guard Landon Gero combined for 20 of Walsingham’s 28 halftime points Tuesday, which were enough for a four-point lead.
Gero scored all 10 of his points in the first quarter including a pair of 3-pointers as the Trojans built a 19-10 lead after one quarter.
Walsingham closed the third quarter on a 10-2 run with a three-point play from Stewart followed by a Jones put-back, a pair of James West free throws, and a deep buzzer-beating 3 from West.
West finished with 13 points including three treys.
Balogun only had a bucket, but tallied four emphatic blocks.
“We didn’t quite have the energy that we had in the Cape Henry game,” Barnes said. “It’s kind of been that with us at home a lot when we just don’t come out with the same intensity we do on the road. But I thought we played well against a very good team; a very well-coached team. It’s tough to beat team like that twice in a year.”
Walsingham lost by three points in the TCIS semifinals to Cape Henry Collegiate, the fourth seed in the Division I tournament. The Trojans’ first win over STAB came in the early-season Flint Hill tourney. Consider showings like the first victory for Barnes against Richmond’s Benedictine earlier this season and a triple-overtime win over Steward School of Richmond, and Walsingham’s group of relatively inexperienced players have put together a strong season.
“I’d say the main difference (from the start of the season) is we play more together,” Jones said. “ At the beginning of the year, it was more individual stuff. Lately, we’ve been playing great basketball. We’ve been playing together, boxing out and rebounding.”