WILLIAMSBURG – Following an impressive 76-64 win Thursday at Atlantic Shores Christian, Walsingham Academy boys basketball coach Billy Barnes warned his team of a letdown ahead of Saturday afternoon’s contest at home with Christ Chapel Academy of Woodbridge.
It happened anyway. His Trojans (9-5) were flat for about 29 minutes, but rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit and ended the game on a 17-4 run in the final few minutes, scoring the last 10 points of the game to win 53-52 thanks to Sam Jones’ tip-in with 35 seconds left.
“I knew this was going to be a tough game,” Barnes said, “because I know (Christ Chapel) is well-coached and pretty good.”
Indeed, Christ Chapel (5-13) was pretty good for much of the match. The Lions led by five points after the first quarter and at halftime, and by 10 entering the fourth. Throughout the afternoon, they slashed successfully into the paint for close-range scores and shot 6-for-16 from 3-point range led by Evan Makle and Jordan White. Makle had 14 points and a pair of 3s and White 13 with a trio of long-range jumpers. And all of Vincent Reed-Berry’s 10 points were of the two-point variety.
But Christ Chapel lost control in the fourth, beginning with 6-foot-9 sophomore Tariq Balogun knocking down Walsingham’s only 3-pointer of the game with a bank shot from the top of the key on a Jaylin Stewart assist to narrow the visitors’ lead to 50-43 with 3:07 left.
The Lions quickly responded with a pair of free throws, but that was the last time the ball fell through the net for them.
Stewart scored inside before Christ Chapel missed the front end of a one-and-one at the foul line.
Then Landon Gero’s two free throws got the Trojans within five points with 2:16 on the clock before the Lions missed out on another one-and-one opportunity nine seconds later.
Stewart turned it into two points on the other end, gliding into the paint with a left-handed layup off the glass on the left side to get his team within three points as Walsingham ratcheted up the defensive pressure.
Stewart, a sophomore, netted eight of his 15 points in the fourth, the last of which came after James West’s steal and pass ahead for a lay-in that trimmed the advantage to 52-51 with 1:08 to play.
“Normally, we don’t (panic),” Stewart said. “We’ve played some pretty great games where we were down and then we’ll just start playing how we know how to play.”
Jones knows how to position himself around the basket for follow-ups. Although his put-back winner to put Walsingham ahead for good, 53-52, was somewhat of a fluke shot, Jones was right where he needed to be in front of the basket as Stewart’s short runner in transition misfired. After cutting to the middle of the paint with Stewart streaking to the basket, Jones reached both hands straight up for the rebound as Christ Chapel’s Kamren Sherrod got his fingers on the ball as it popped back up and through the rim for two points.
“I always crash the boards so I just went with (Stewart),” Jones said. “I saw it come off the rim and I just went up and got a finger on it.”
Barnes said Jones, who tallied 12 points, plays harder than anybody on the team. It was an odd-looking tip-in, but not exactly an accident.
“He’s not going to quit on a play,” Stewart said.
Christ Chapel turned it over with 7.7 seconds left, but Stewart missed the first try of a one-and-one to give the Lions a chance to win it. White’s 3 didn’t draw iron, though, and the Trojans escaped with their third win in a row.
Balogun also finished with 15 points and sat a good portion of the first half after picking up two fouls. The lanky England native registered a pair of two-handed slams and shot 4-for-6 from the foul line.
“He changes the game for us,” Barnes said. “Having him sit in the first half with two fouls really hurt us because we count on him to score. We count on him to block shots and rebound… He’s playing well. He has a chance to be a great player.”
Despite the overall lackluster performance Saturday, it was another good win for the inexperienced Trojans, who have three seniors: West, Gero and Harrison Forrest.
Walsingham had a couple of big wins earlier in the season against St. Anne’s-Belfield and Flint Hill and lost by eight points to Trinity Episcopal, the second-ranked VISAA Division I team, before splitting with Benedictine in Richmond.
“I do think we are getting better,” Barnes said. “You did not see that tonight. We’re not consistent enough yet and that’s where we have to get.”
WALSINGHAM 53, CHRIST CHAPEL 52
Christ Chapel: White 13, Makle 14, McGovern 6, Reed-Berry 10, Luck 3, Riggins 2, Sherrod 4. Totals 20 6-10 52.
Walsingham: Jones 12, West 5, Balogun 15, Stewart 15, Gero 2, Blow 4. Totals 18 14-18 53.
CHRIST CHAPEL 17 10 17 8 – 52
WALSINGHAM 12 10 12 19 – 53
3-point goals: Christ Chapel 6 (White 3, Makle 2, Luck), Walsingham 1 (Balogun).