Barons headed to final four after fourth encounter with Miller

For a fourth a final meeting, it seemed all too appropriate that Blue Ridge and Miller would take a little extra time to determine an outcome. Thanks to a fourth quarter push from the Barons and a last-second 3-pointer in overtime, the VISAA Division 1 quarterfinal between these two rivals needed a second overtime. Then just when the Mavericks looked like they were ready to take down the Barons for the first time this season on a Markell Lodge layup, Blue Ridge’s Corbyn Jackson came up with a nearly identical play of his own to provide the difference in the last moments of the game, propelling his team to a 78-77 win. 

“A lot of people made big plays tonight,” said Barons coach Bill Ramsey. “These guys know how to win. If anything (these games with Miller) have us experienced with winning tight games. Good gracious, it’s been four games all down to the wire.” 

For the first three quarters Miller was in control, never trailing but weaving back and forth with an 8-point lead only to have Blue Ridge chip away and tighten things up. The Barons trailed 15-7 late in the first quarter, but scored seven straight points going into the second. The Mavericks held on and took a 5-point lead at the break, but just a few minutes into the third quarter it was tied at 29. The visitors reclaimed a two-possesion lead going into the fourth quarter and maintained that pace until Andre Roberts hit a 3-pointer midway through the frame to make it a 1-point game. After a Miller free throw, Ahmad Fields came up with a put back to tie the game up at 51. Down two in the last minute of the fourth, Fields came up with another put back to send the game into overtime. 

“The players, they kept battling, refused to lose and so I’m just so proud of them,” Ramsey said. “That’s a really, really good team we played. They’re hard to stop and know how to score quick. You have to be really careful with their shooters, so you can only give so much help defensively to Andrew White. You can’t flat-out double him because they’ve got four other shooters to worry about. But digging out of that, going to the full court press was what worked. It worked (in the VIC finals) in Lynchburg and it worked tonight. That’s how we got back in it.” 

In the first overtime, Blue Ridge claimed its first lead of the night behind the play of Jarod Williams and Leon Strauss underneath the basket. 

“It was just draw and dish,” Williams said of his ability to drive through the paint. “We had to fight through the adversity. We had to get it all together.”

With two minutes left, Williams put the Barons up by five. But this time Miller fought back first with a Devon Anderson 3-pointer to make it a 2-point game, and after a Blue Ridge free throw, it was up to White to find a way to tie the game. With the clock winding down, White pulled the trigger on the first look he got and buried the shot to even the score. The Barons had just enough time to get down the court and take the last shot, but did not convert. 

In the second overtime, there were just two field goals going into the final minute of play, but the lead switched over and over again between free throw attempts. Trailing by one with less than 30 seconds to go, Lodge got the ball in the paint and put Miller up 77-76. Having just sunk four-straight foul shots on Blue Ridge’s previous two possessions, Jackson got the ball down low and hit the game winning basket. 

“With the free throws, I shoot 50 to 100 of those everyday so it’s something I’ve worked really hard on,” Jackson said. “(On the layup) it was just about stepping up. It was my time to do that and we’re a family and now we’re headed to the (state semifinals).”

With 5.9 seconds left, the Mavericks tried to get the ball to White for one last try, but double teamed with no look, the senior moved the ball to Jenkins, who was well defended but was forced to shoot without getting set. The shot hit the backboard and kicked out as the buzzer sounded.

“Any time you’ve got four games that were decided by a total of seven points, obviously you’ve got two closely matched teams,” Willard said. “It is a disappointing way to end the season though. It was a game of attrition.”

For White, Jenkins, Cannon and Anderson, it was their final game in a Miller uniform. White led the way with 28 points while Jenkins added 19. Anderson finished with 11 and Cannon contributed nine points. Willard spoke highly of his seniors. 

“These guys, they left everything they had on the court and that’s how they’ve represented this school these last two years they’ve all been here,” Willard said. “We’ve come to the point now where we’re considered one of the best teams in the state and it’s because of those four seniors.” 

The Barons had a trio of players with at least 14 points. Williams and Fields each scored 15 while Roberts had a trio of 3-pointers to fuel his 14. Jackson was the fourth Blue Ridge player to finish in double figures with 12 points. Paris Maragkos and Darryl Smith each chipped in nine points. 

Miller, which was the fifth seed in the tournament, ends its season at 20-10. Fourth-seeded Blue Ridge (20-6) moves on to face top-seeded Paul VI at Virginia State University in Petersburg on Friday night at 7 p.m.

“I certainly felt like Miller was one of the top four seeds in the state with us, and we should have seen them in the state semifinals or later,” Ramsey said. “Now we’ve got a Paul VI team that we know very well. They were young a couple of years ago, but they’re all seniors now. We’re going to celebrate this win tonight and then get ready for them.”