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December 22, 2012
Friday night marked the third meeting in the last 12 months between the Henrico Warriors and John Marshall Justices, two Central Region contenders with state title aspirations.
John Marshall entered with plenty of size, playing seven guys at least 6-foot-3 or bigger. Henrico had only one player on its roster taller than 6-foot-3, but Warriors 5-foot-10 senior guard Timmy Jones offered a solution.
"Speed kills," he said.
And it did as Henrico sped past the Justices, 84-66 in the semifinals of the 18th Annual Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. John Marshall beat Henrico in the Championship of last year's TDIT, but fell to the Warriors in the Central Region Tournament semifinals a couple months later.
The Warriors outscored John Marshall 26-9 in the second quarter and 22-14 in the third period to overcome a 17-12 deficit at the end of one. Even though the Justices were taller in the front-court, Henrico managed to score at will in the paint, beating JM 50-20 in that category and holding them to 28.6% shooting from the field in the first half.
"It was a big win. It's a north-side rival, two good teams went at it head-to-head, and we fought it out and battled. That's what we had to do, and defense won the game for us really," Jones added.
If you eliminate the 4-for-7 shooting by Citadel-bound forward Brian White of the Justices in the first half, John Marshall shot just 4-of-21 from the field, including 1-of-9 from there-point distance with 16 turnovers. White finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to lead John Marshall.
Dominating inside for Henrico, however, was Marvin Smith, a 6-foot-6 senior forward that might be as improved as any player in the state at the AAA level. Smith, a role player who was in the shadow of others last season like guards Jones and Jordon Talley as well as captain Evan Thorpe (now at CNU), more than held his own going up against a D-1 player.
Smith posted 21 points and 14 rebounds, doing much of his damage before half-time with 16 points and 11 boards, six of them on the offensive end as he consistently got stick-backs to demoralize the John Marshall defense.
"It was a pretty good game for me, but more importantly it was about the team W. I'm going to do whatever it takes for the team to win," a humble Smith said following Henrico's latest victory.
His ascension from a capable performer to one that can dominate at times came after Henrico's loss to Hampton in last season's State Tournament semifinals. He decided to dedicate his time to getting stronger and better.
"Over the off-season, Tim, Jordon and I were at it every day, lifting weights, shooting, running hills and working out with Matt Murrer (former VMI standout)," Smith explained. "We wanted it bad, and when the off-season workouts started at the school, the other players started seeing that we want it bad and that's when they started picking up and they want it, too. Everybody came together."
As great as Smith was in the low block scoring, rebounding and even stepping out for a three-point swish in the second half, maybe one of his best plays came when he took a charge late in the first quarter when John Marshall was in front. He wasn't the only one doing that either; freshman De'Monte Buckingham drew one in the second period, and it was those types of plays that truly sparked Henrico's fierce run.
"We have to sacrifice our body. Every man has each other's back. If one man gets beat, step up and take a charge. It's about helping each other out," Jones noted.
"Last year, we played for a state title and didn't get it, we came up short. It was a failure basically. That made us hungry and we're fighting for that ring."
Henrico Head Basketball Coach Vance Harmon likes the hustle plays by Smith, Jones, Talley, Buckingham, Stephen Booker, R.J. Moses and others. Drawing charges and getting it done on the defensive end of the floor first and foremost makes Henrico successful, plus leads to productivity on offense, where they are among the best in the state at scoring, averaging 86 points per game.
"It was awesome. In fact, our assistant coach, Coach Atwell, was telling me to sit down because I was going crazy with our guys taking charges, stepping up and it was exciting," Harmon remarked.
"I was pumped up and I loved it when the guys get jacked up to play defense like that, and offensively six guys with double-figures. I thought the big court really played into our advantage tonight because we were able to spread things out and put the guards on display."
Next up for Henrico (7-0) is a date with fellow unbeaten Benedictine on Saturday night at 8:30 PM at the VCU Siegel Center in the Times-Dispatch Championship. Not only is Benedictine one of the most stacked squads in the state, public or private, but they've won the TDIT title three times since 2003. Henrico is seeking its first crown.
Regardless of the outcome, Harmon wants to use it as a growth tool. The players aren't satisfied with what they've done to this point, and feel the sky is the limit as long as they continue to play with max effort.
"We're just going to play hard, play defense, play smart and play together," Smith said. "That's all we have to do and the chips will fall where they fall. As long as we do those things, we'll have no regrets."
Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related info and updates. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon every Saturday on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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