Hargrave Splits Pair of Home Games to End the Month

Benjamin J Veshi

After spending much of the first part of the season away from Walter Davis Gymnasium, the Tigers began their final stretch with five of their last six games at home by splitting a pair of games. Hargrave defeated Carlisle on Monday night before dropping a VIC Conference game against Blue Ridge on Wednesday.

The Tigers have been road warriors for most of the season, playing games throughout the states of Virginia and North Carolina, but now they are looking forward to a nice home stretch to close out the regular season. Heading into the week, Hargrave was coming off an emotional victory over Norfolk Collegiate and had a positive outlook heading into the matchups against Carlisle and Blue Ridge, both of which beat the Tigers earlier in the month of January. By splitting the games, Hargrave sits at 10-8 overall this season and 1-3 in VIC Conference play with just a couple weeks remaining in the regular season.

Monday January 28th, 2019
Hargrave 63
Carlisle School 45

When these teams played earlier this season, Carlisle School handled the Tigers pretty handily, winning 84-67 after scoring 51 points in the first half. Fast forward twelve days and the script was completely flipped as Hargrave came out determined to defend their home court. Carlisle took an early 6-2 lead but Hargrave made a first quarter run and never allowed Carlisle to get closer than four points throughout the last three quarters of action. A strong defensive effort was propelled by IJ Ezuma ’21 as he protected the paint to the tune of 6 blocked shots to go along with his 9 points and 11 rebounds. The Tigers defense helped balance out their poor shooting performance. However, Coach Veshi was very pleased with his team’s defense as they took down Carlisle by a final score of 63-45.

When asked about his team’s effort, Coach Veshi remarked, “These guys really battled tonight. We talked in the locker room before the game about proving a point to ourselves that the team that took the floor in Martinsville twelve days earlier is not who we truly are as a team. That motivation was evident on the court tonight as we were able to hold Carlisle under 50 points after giving up 51 points to them in the first half earlier this season. We rebounded well and I couldn’t be happier with how we played tonight.”

Notable Performances Included:

Matt Brown, Jr. ’19–26 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals
Grant Okolo ’19–15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
IJ Ezuma ’21–9 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks
Nathan Kania ’20–7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

Wednesday January 30th, 2019
Blue Ridge 79
Hargrave 66

As Hargrave started off the second half of VIC Conference play, the energy in Walter Davis Gymnasium was outstanding. The Tigers, who lost to Blue Ridge just three weeks prior by a wide margin, were determined to have their defensive effort from the Norfolk Collegiate and Carlisle games carry over and started off the game up 13-10. A 7-0 run by Blue Ridge gave them the lead at the end of the first quarter, 17-13. Both teams seemed to trade baskets the rest of the way, as the Tigers never gave up against the #2 ranked team in the state according to the latest VISAA Coaches Poll. After a pair of free throws, Hargrave trailed 62-56 with four minutes remaining in regulation but Blue Ridge, as they did for most of the game, had an answer for the Tigers and nailed back to back three pointers to push their lead to double digits for the first time in the second half. This proved to be the final nail in the coffin as Hargrave never got the deficit back to single digits before ultimately falling 79-66.

Coach Veshi after the game stated, “Again for the fifth game in a row, I’ve been really proud of our effort on the court. After we lost to Fleming (1/19), I really challenged our guys to play with passion and dig deep regardless of the circumstances. When you play a tough non-conference schedule and an even tougher conference schedule, there isn’t any time to take plays off or come into a game without being fully ready to give 100% energy. Three weeks ago, we were coming off an emotional victory of Virginia Episcopal and our guys just didn’t have the same energy up at Blue Ridge and the final score reflected that. Within the flow of the game, our guys gave themselves a fighting chance tonight and as a coach, all I can ask is that they compete with championship effort for the full 32 minutes. Our league (VIC Division 1) is essentially like playing in a conference with Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas-there isn’t much room for error. Our guys are starting to learn that and I hope we can translate that into some victories down the stretch. We play a very good Highland School team on Saturday and we have to be ready to lock in and compete.”

Notable Performances Included:

IJ Ezuma ’21–17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Nathan Kania ’20–12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Grant Okolo ’19–10 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists
Matt Brown, Jr. ’19–10 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists
Wade Thomas ’19–10 points, 2 rebounds

The Tigers are back in action on Saturday afternoon for another VISAA Division 2 Top 12 matchup against Highland School. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 PM.