ST. GEORGE — Last Thursday night against Virginia Episcopal School, the Blue Ridge basketball team could not solve the Bishops’ 2-3 zone, managing just four points in the first quarter in a loss.
Barons coach Bill Ramsey spent all weekend preparing his troops to see the zone again against Woodberry Forest. His preparation paid off. The Barons scored inside, outside and led nearly wire to wire in a 76-30 win over the visiting Tigers on Tuesday.
From the moment the ball was tipped, it was clear that Tuesday night’s contest would belong to the Barons. Six-foot-10 junior Mamadi Diakite took the ball down court and polished off a two-hand slam just 10 seconds into the game. In the second quarter, Dikiate reeled off the second-best dunk in the evening when the junior threw down an alley-oop off of a beautiful pass from Malik Johnson. Dikiate finished with eight points and helped Blue Ridge dominate the low block.
The best dunk of the night came in the second quarter, when Scott Spencer took flight and brought the house down with an emphatic tomahawk dunk in the face of two Woodberry defenders while being fouled. Spencer’s play brought the Baron bench and the crowd to its feet and set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
With Richmond head coach Chris Mooney looking on, Spencer netted 16 of his game-high 20 points in the first half as the Barons began to pile it on in the second quarter. Following Spencer’s rim-rocking dunk, the Barons outscored Woodberry Forest 20-5 in the final 4:30 minutes of the frame.
“We spent a lot of time on offense working against the 2-3 zone, obviously. VES played that the whole game. Not only did we have a game against VES to practice, we also spent the last three days practicing it, because we knew that we would see it until we solved it,” Ramsey said following the win. “We gave [Woodberry] about four different looks that we didn’t have in the last game and we got a lot of good shots out of it.”
The Barons were just as deadly from the outside, burying five treys as a team. Johnson continued his early season success with 16 points against the Tigers.
As efficient as Blue Ridge was on offense, the Barons were absolute terrors on the defensive end. Unlike Thursday’s contest, Blue Ridge dictated the tempo for all 32 minutes and suffocated the Tigers with an intense full-court press. The Barons were in Woodberry’s face after every made basket, causing the Tigers to finish the first half with more turnovers than points.
The Barons poured it on in the last minute of the first half. The relentless Blue Ridge defense barely allowed Woodberry to inbound the ball and forced four consecutive turnovers in the backcourt. The Barons turned the four steals into six points and stretched its lead to 27 points at the break.
“Our main goal defensively is ball pressure,” Johnson said. “We feel like ball pressure is going to start everything, and from there, we just go down as far principles and as far as help. When we pressure the ball, we’re going to make the defender make a decision and usually it’s a bad one.”
Added Woodberry head coach Craig Dawson: "They’re athletic across the board. They pressure the ball with long arms and force a bunch of steals. It’s hard when you turn the ball over and you don’t get shots, but you’ve got to tip your hat off to them.”
Luke Neeley scored the first seven Woodberry points and was the only Tiger to finish in double figures with 11.