By Allen Kha / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
WAYNESBORO — Fishburne Military School knew that it wasn’t 38 points worse than state rivals Hargrave Military Academy — having lost away to the Tigers 92-54 in early December — and came out Thursday evening wanting to prove it.
“Both teams are top-10 [post-graduate] programs nationally, and the two best teams in the state,” Fishburne coach Ed Huckaby said. “Tonight, we simply had something to prove on our home court.”
After trailing by as much as 13 points midway through the second half, the hosting Caissons forced overtime. Fishburne nearly matched undefeated Hargrave basket-for-basket in overtime, failing to convert on its final possession en route to a 122-119 overtime loss to the visiting Tigers.
Athleticism dominated the first half of the game. The game’s first 20 minutes saw a combined 10 dunks from both teams — eight from Virginia Tech-signee Montrez Harrell.
Hargrave implemented a trap defense early, helping it force turnovers and jump out to an early 22-15 lead against Fisburne.
Once Fishburne settled into the game, the Caissons used a motion and screen-and-roll offense to claw back into the game. Fisburne took its first lead of the game — at 35-34 — with eight minutes left in the first half, and matched Hargrave point-for-point for the ensuing few minutes.
The Tigers reclaimed a 41-39 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half, and went on an 8-2 run to close the game’s first stanza with a 57-48 lead. Harrell starred in the first half with 24 points, 16 of which came from eight monster slam dunks exhibited throughout the entire half.
Fishburne and Hargrave each traded mini-runs in the first few minutes of the second half, with Hargrave expanding its lead over the Caissons to 13 with 12:14 remaining in the game.
After Fisburne’s Matt Gorski dunked to bring the Tigers’ lead down to 11, the Caissons implemented a high-pressure defense of its own, forcing a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play and scoring on a windmill dunk to bring the deficit down to single-digits.
Fishburne used a balanced effort from its entire team to chip away at Hargrave’s lead, tying the game when Winthrop-bound Jackson Trapp freed himself off a screen-and-roll at the top of the key and drained a three to tie the game at 102 a-piece, with two minutes remaining in regulation.
After the Caissons took a 106-103 lead with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, Hargrave’s Wake Forest-bound point guard Cody Miller-McIntyre made a three-point shot off a screen-and-roll to tie the game at 106 and bring his team to overtime.
Both teams traded baskets again until Miller-McIntyre drove into the lane and make an acrobatic cross-court pass to a wide-open Jordan Smith, who made a corner three to give Hargrave a 120-117 lead with 20 seconds remaining in overtime.
Fishburne responded with a quick layup, but was never able to match the extra point the Tigers recorded on that three-point attempt, ultimately falling to the visiting team when a last-second fade-away three-point attempt by Fishburne’s Trapp hit the side of the rim.
Despite the loss, Huckaby was noticeably pleased with his team after the game.
“I don’t believe much in moral victories, but tonight could have been that. We played a superb game. The way our team fought back and the intensity with which we played was great,” Huckaby said.
Hargrave’s Harrell, who finished regulation with 47 points and the game with 51 points (24 off dunks) and four blocks, was equally pleased with his team’s win.
“[Fishburne] came in with a chip on its shoulder. The fact that we were able to come in and handle that and be resilient, that’s a testament to the entire team. Cody [Miller-McIntyre] led the team down the stretch, and our entire team gave a balanced effort,” Harrell said. “Honestly, [despite the dunks] I was more excited that I got a few jump hooks to go in in the second half. The coaches keep working with me on that– improving my jump hook and mid-range game– because it’ll help me become a better player, and help us win in tough games like we saw tonight.”
Florida Atlantic-bound Chris Bryant led Fishburne with 22 points.