By Cam Huffman
With Rondale Watson scoring at will, Greenbrier East held a halftime advantage over Virginia Episcopal. When Watson’s scoring suddenly went dry, the Spartans didn’t have an answer.
VES (6-1) held Watson to just four second-half points and held East to 33 percent shooting from the field on its way to a 61-49 victory and a Spartan Holiday Tournament championship Saturday at Spartan Gym.
Watson, a Wake Forest signee, ended the game with 23 points — after a 19-point first-half effort that allowed the host Spartans (3-2) to hold a 34-30 lead at the break — but nobody else reached double figures for an ice-cold East squad.
Tyler Canterbury scored seven and Josh Tunstalle six, but center Obi Romeo scored only two points matched up against VES big man Skyy Johnson.
“Two of our guys played AAU with him, so we knew what he was capable of and what he wasn’t,” said VES head coach Curtis Staples, a former college basketball star at the University of Virginia. “Our guys kept him away from being able to catch the ball and dunk the ball. At this point in his career, that’s what he does best.”
Easy putback looks on the other end allowed VES to quickly take control in the second half, while East settled for difficult shots, mostly from the perimeter. The Spartans were just 2 for 21 from 3-point range and 15 for 45 from the field on the game.
“We had to make an adjustment defensively,” said Staples of the second-half turnaround. “They were getting to the basket on ease, so we went to our orange defense, which is a matchup zone, to stop the dribble penetration. It worked for us.”
Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice said his team also aided the visitors’ cause.
“We should be able to eat a zone alive,” he said. “We have a lot of good shooters. We just couldn’t throw it in the ocean, and we didn’t get the 50-50 balls. You’re not going to win games against good teams when you do that.”
Justice said the game was decided in the first few possessions of the second half when East couldn’t convert good looks on four straight possessions. The Bishops took advantage, going on an 8-0 run to take a 40-36 lead, and they never looked back.
“That just set the pace for the whole second half,” said Justice. “It was just one of those nights. (VES) was a mighty good basketball team, but we have to find a way to finish.”
Romeo, who had 22 rebounds in the win over Parkersburg Catholic Friday night, had 10 boards Saturday, but the Spartans were no match for the visitors in that category. The Bishops won the battle on the glass 47-24, pulling down more offensive rebounds (17) than the Spartans had defensive boards (16).
“That’s just effort,” said Justice. “We’re not small, and we have kids that can jump out of the building. We just didn’t go get the rebounds.”
The Bishops were led by a double-double effort for Dalonte Jones, who had 17 points and 12 boards. Two others, Taylor McHue and Johnson, scored 11 each for a balanced attack that also included seven apiece from Aaron Young and Trevon Fields.
“We fought back after being down,” said Staples. “We had one setback this year when we got down and our guys didn’t respond. Being down a few points tonight, our guys came out and fought in the second half. I was pleased with that.”
East will have just one day to prepare for a busy week that will include home games against sectional foe Shady Spring Monday, Liberty Christian Academy on Friday and a showdown with rival Woodrow Wilson on Saturday.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
Virginia Episcopal (6-1)
Aaron Young 2-8 1-2 7, Trevon Fields 1-4 5-7 7, Taylor McHue 5-10 0-2 11, Dalonte Jones 6-13 4-7 17, Skyy Johnson 4-6 3-4 11, Phillip Haynes 1-2 2-2 4, Vincent Agee 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 21-49 15-24 61.
Greenbrier East (3-2)
Josh Tunstalle 2-5 2-3 6, Obi Romeo 1-3 0-3 2, Rondale Watson 6-15 11-15 23, Isaiah Kinder 2-7 0-0 4, Tyler Canterbury 3-11 0-0 7, Ty Walker 0-0 3-4 3, Ben Allen 1-3 1-2 4, Kamen Reynolds 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 17-27 49.
VES 12 18 15 16 — 61
GE 14 20 8 7 — 49
3-point goals — VES: 4 (Young 2, McHue, Jones). GE: 2 (Canterburry, Allen). Fouled out — VES: Johnson, GE: Canterbury.