By Cam Huffman
Some major prospects were in the house at Spartan Gym Friday night as Mountain Mission and Virginia Episcopal School — two basketball powerhouses out of Virginia — prepared for the nightcap in the Spartan Holiday Tournament.
Host Greenbrier East wanted to prove it had some talent of its own.
Wake Forest signee Rondale Watson scored 31 points, dished out seven assists and pulled down six rebounds, and St. Joseph’s signee Obi Romeo had 16 points, 22 rebounds and six blocked shots as Class AAA No. 6 Greenbrier East handled Class A No. 2 Parkersburg Catholic 84-57 to set up a showdown with Virginia Episcopal — a 77-32 winner Friday night — in the championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m.
It will be a major test for East (3-1), which has set out to play a difficult schedule to ready itself for postseason play.
The Spartans already dropped an overtime decision to Class AA No. 3 Westside. They play VES tonight, host Class AAA No. 2 Woodrow Wilson a week from tonight and then play defending Class AA champion Bluefield six days later.
Before the end of the year, the Spartans will host national power Oak Hill Academy, return the trip to Westside, return the trip to Bluefield and host Winston-Salem Prep. That’s not including the Big Atlantic Classic or any other games they pick up before the end of the year.
“We want to play the best teams we can play,” said head coach Jim Justice, who said the Spartans tried to pick up a game with Class AAA No. 4 Huntington, as well. Justice said Huntington wouldn’t make the trip to Fairlea, and after East agreed to go on the road to play the Highlanders, Huntington backed out. “For crying out loud, it just makes you better.”
Judging from Friday’s performance, there’s a reason Justice believes his team can compete with the best of the best.
After a tight first quarter that saw Parkersburg Catholic answer every Spartan run, East turned a 23-18 game early in the second quarter into a runaway with a 15-0 run.
Watson started the spurt with a 3-point play on a drive to the bucket and then connected from the outside a few seconds later. Point guard Isaiah Kinder added a 3-point dagger of his own, and the game was suddenly in firm control of the Spartans.
“We’ve changed our break and tried to speed our game up since the loss to Westside,” said Justice. “As soon as I saw that Parkersburg Catholic started working the ball and looking for shots, I knew we had to disrupt that like crazy. So we went to a man-to-man all over the floor.”
Watson scored both inside and out, finishing 3 for 9 from behind the 3-point arc, but he did most of his damage by taking Parkersburg Catholic defenders to the rim in one-on-one situations.
Romeo, who was quiet in the loss to Westside, asserted himself on both ends of the floor — swatting shots away like gnats on the front porch and throwing down three thunderous dunks. Kinder — the quarterback of the football team, who didn’t play basketball last season — proved to be an important piece of the puzzle, as well, finishing with 12 points and five assists.
“Isaiah is a super smart kid,” said Justice of the senior, who was 4 for 5 from 3-point range. “He does everything in the world the coaches want him to do. He is the perfect coachable kid, and he’s just steady. He handles the ball well, he shoots it well and he’s a real plus on this team.”
Wyoming East transfer Josh Tunstalle was the fourth double-digit scorer for the Spartans with 10 points to go along with seven rebounds and four steals.
The Crusaders (3-2) played a fundamental game, limiting turnovers and sharing the basketball, but they were no match for the Spartans on the glass. Greenbrier East won the rebounding battle 64-28, taking away any shot the visitors had of staying competitive.
Ben Collie scored 15 points off the bench to lead Parkersburg Catholic, which will play Mountain Mission in the consolation game tonight at 6 p.m. Joe Dadden added 14 to go along with a team-high four assists, and Payton Strum had 10.
East led by as many as 36 before going deep into its bench. Fourteen players saw the floor for the Spartans, who know they will be tested by VES and George Washington commitment Anthony Swann.
“That’s what we want,” said Justice. “Our fans want to see great games, and we want to give that to them.”
Parkersburg Catholic (3-2)
Payton Strum 4-8 0-0 10, Ben Collie 4-6 4-4 15, Carson Weyer 0-3 0-0 0, Tully Lynch-pastoor 0-1 0-0 0, Joe Padden 5-18 1-2 14, Cody Offenberger 0-1 0-0 0, Brady Kurucz 2-9 0-0 4, Austin Luther 1-3 0-0 2, Jake Boice 2-6 0-0 4, Nick Roedersheimer 2-5 1-2 5, Andrew Nill 1-2 0-0 3, Austin Hendershot 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-62 6-8 57.
Greenbrier East (3-1)
Ty Walker 0-1 0-0 0, Rondale Watson 11-24 6-7 31, Isaiah Kinder 4-7 0-1 12, Josh McClung 0-1 0-0 0, Ben Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Josh Tunstalle 4-10 1-1 10, Kamen Reynolds 1-3 0-0 2, Billy Honaker 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Canterbury 3-7 1-2 8, Austin Jerman 2-5 1-2 5, Seth Brown 0-2 0-0 0, Forest Vass 0-1 0-0 0, Obi Romeo 8-15 0-0 16, Evan Canterbury 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-78 9-13 84.
PC 16 6 16 19 — 57
GE 21 23 23 17 — 84
3-point goals — PC: 9 (Strum 2, Collie 3, Padden 3, Nill). GE: 9 (Watson 3, Kinder 4, Tunstalle, Canterbury). Fouled out — none.