By Curtis Atkinson
Harrisonburg (March 6, 2016) — What a difference a week makes. One week after going 3-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half against Loudoun Valley, John Champe High School came out on fire from deep in their VHSL 4A state quarterfinal game against the Eastern View Cyclones. In the first quarter alone, the Knights went 5-for-10 from beyond the arc on their way to 26 points, staking themselves to an early double-digit lead they would never relinquish.
John Champe followed up a frenetic first half — that gave them a 9-point lead heading into the break — with a lock down defensive effort in the third quarter. The Knights gave up only five third-quarter points to put away the Cyclones on the way to an 85-61 victory that sends John Champe onto Richmond with a date in a VHSL 4A state semifinal.
“They were mature enough to put [last week’s region loss]behind them,” John Champe head coach Bill Maher said. “And they’re very excited to go to Richmond.”
The Knights controlled the game throughout, using 3-point shooting to balance out the always steady efforts of senior forward Kuony Deng. The VHSL 4A West region Player of the Year scored 11 first quarter points on the way to a game-high 22 points to go with 12 rebounds and 5 assists. The senior and VMI commit — who has been a huge part of the quick rise of the John Champe basketball program — took last week’s loss to Valley especially hard. He made sure to take advantage of the second chance that was offered.
“That game against Valley hurt,” Deng said. “We wanted to come back with a chip on our shoulder, and we took care of business.”
Deng led a balanced attack that saw four players in double figures, including an incredibly efficient 21 points from junior guard Dom Fragala who shot a scorching 83-percent from 3-point range. Fragala ended the night 5-for-6 from downtown and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Scoring 21 points on just six field goal attempts is quite an accomplishment, and Fragala knew he was in a rhythm early.
“I’ve been shooting since I was little. When I make one shot, I just build the confidence and keep shooting,” Fragala said. “If I’m open, I know I can knock it down.”
While the hot shooting paced the offense, the Knights’ locked up the game with a determined defensive effort in the third quarter that saw them force eight Eastern View turnovers and limit the Cyclones to just five points as they built their lead from the 9-point advantage they had at halftime to 20 entering the final stanza. From there they cruised through the final buzzer, never threatened in the fourth.
Now, the Knights will look to keep their momentum rolling as they head to Richmond for the first time in school history. Maher knows if they take the game they had in Harrisonburg with them to Richmond, they’ll have a shot against anyone, saying simply, “they have a goal.”
Given how hard they took the loss in the VHSL 4A West region championship, the Knights won’t be satisfied with just a trip to the Final Four.
“Our entire school, our entire community, they want to see us do something big in the state tournament,” Deng said.
John Champe Knights Stats per Legit Sport Stats
Kuony Deng 22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocked shots, 4-for-5 free throws
Dom Fragala 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocked shots, 6-for-6 free throws
Sean Prendergast 16 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 blocked shots, 0-for-1 free throw
Zach Burdick 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 6-for-13 free throws
Max Murray 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5-for-6 free throws
Nick Ryan 4 points
Carl Garmon 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Will Nichols 2 rebounds
Robbie Harwood 1 rebound, 1 assist
Scotty Collier 1 rebound, 0-for-1 free throw
Zion Brown 1 steal, 1 blocked shot
85 points, 38 rebounds, 20 assists, 11 turnovers, 11 steals, 9 blocked shots, 21-for-32 free throws
Eastern View Cyclones Stats per Legit Sport Stats
Anias Saunders 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0-for-2 free throws
Jamez Guanill 12 points, 1 assist, 2 steals, 5-for-6 free throws
Hunter D’Ago 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2-for-2 free throws
Musah Sackor 10 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocked shots, 4-for-8 free throws
Montrez Orange 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2-for-4 free throws
Eddie Russel 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Justin Pollard 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
TJ Johnson 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Jacob Galenski 1 rebound
Jacob Galenski 1 rebound
61 points, 42 rebounds, 12 assists, 14 turnovers, 6 steals, 2 blocked shots, 13-for-22 free throws