By Bryan Rothamel / FlucoBlog.com
PALMYRA — Orange claimed the Fluvanna Christmas Bash championship, grinding out a 42-39 victory over the hosting Flucos Friday night.
Just over two minutes into the second half, the Hornets held a 19-16 lead when FCHS changed defensive schemes to a halfcourt trap. Orange turned the ball over numerous times, leading to fastbreak layups for the Flucos.
Over the next 4:30, Fluvanna outscored Orange 11-2. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Flucos claimed a 30-25 advantage.
Then John Marshall Gillum stepped into the picture.
The freshman guard found a spot in the left corner of the floor. Repeatedly, the FCHS defense swarmed the ball handler just past midcourt, and Orange quickly found Gillum. He hit his first 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 32-28 with seven minutes left in the game. Then after a Fluco basket, Gillum hit another one from deep to cut the deficit to four points.
“The main thing was the top two guards penetrating the top to get him open,” said OCHS head coach Keyode Rogers. “When [Fluvanna] stepped into the gaps, he was open. He knows what to do when he gets the ball, even being a freshman. No shyness in the game.”
Gillum said, “I was just happy I got the open shot. I was trying to play my role, just shoot the ball.”
Gillum’s two shots, his only baskets of the night, were enough to stretch the defense back down and open up the floor again for Orange.
Another aid to the Hornets was the defense picking up steals to get quick baskets. Down 36-33, Christian Clore scored two baskets off of FCHS miscues. The first time teammate J’Air Rawlings found Clore in the lane during a transition. The second time DeAndre Clark passed to the junior forward who finished the play.
“We played extremely well as a team. We kept our composure, we did exactly what we had to do. We all played our roles,” said Clore.
Fluvanna couldn’t find the basket most of the night. FCHS, despite leading 14-12 at the half, shot under 25 percent in the first 16 minutes. The Flucos shot 45 percent from the line overall, below their average of 60 percent.
“We didn’t make free throws. We just don’t have that killer instinct right now. We were up seven points with [over] four minutes to go then we turned the ball over a couple times and took bad shots. We are a work in progress,” said FCHS head coach Munro Rateau.
Clore led Orange with nine points. Damian Clark scored eight, including two 3-pointers. Vinny Agee paced Fluvanna with 21 points. Jalen Harrison finished with 10 points.
This is the first Fluco Christmas Bash championship for Orange. Last year in the first year of bracket format, John Handley beat Orange then Fluvanna to claim the crown.
“It feels good. The wheels are turning about the new year. This is one of those things we told the boys. If we could come into the tournament get a couple wins – go into the new year with a couple of wins – things change for us. Hopefully we can use this as a springboard to play better in the new year,” said Rogers.
Next up for Orange (4-5, 1-1 CD) is Madison on Jan. 5 before getting back into Commonwealth District play with North Stafford on Jan. 8. Both games will be played at Orange.
Fluvanna (8-2, 0-1 JD) has Jefferson District foe Monticello on Jan. 4. The game will cap an afternoon of both girls’ and boys’ basketball between the two schools. The boys’ game is the final game of the night. All games are at FCHS.