HARRISONBURG – One of Chad Edwards’ fondest childhood sports memories involved him actively cheering for the Lefty Driesell-coached Maryland Terrapins in front of a TV set, including 6-foot-5 guard Jeff Adkins.
“I remember specifically Adkins, being told, ‘Watch him play. This could be the type of player you might be one day,’” said Edwards, a former Spotswood High School player with Adkins’ build.
Edwards will be rooting against Adkins today.
The Trailblazers (26-1) begin their quest for a Division 3 title at 8 p.m. at James Madison University’s Convocation Center against Martinsville (17-10) and its first-year coach, whom Edwards idolized growing up. Now, they’re both guiding their alma maters from the sideline.
Adkins, who was one point shy of 1,000 during his four-year career at Maryland, previously coached at Carlisle School in Henry County for 22 years, winning multiple independent school state titles. He also led Martinsville to back-to-back Group AA state titles in 1980 and 1981 as a player.
Also seeking semifinal berths at the Convo today are the Spotswood girls in Division 3 and the East Rockingham girls in Division 1. (The smallest schools are in D-1.)
While Edwards is the younger of the two skippers, the Bulldogs are the younger of the two teams – but they’re also a much different Martinsville team than the one Spotswood beat in its last state quarterfinal appearance.
“The team we saw two years ago I don’t think quite had the size or interior presence that this team does,” Edwards said.
Paris Jamison, a 6-2 senior wing, leads the still-athletic Bulldogs, scoring roughly 20 points per game. Senior swingman Hyrum Weiler and junior point guard Tucker McCoy each averaged nearly 19 points for SHS during the regular season.
“[The Bulldogs] have a pretty good-sized post game and the couple guards they have are just really athletic,” said SHS senior forward Austin Nicely. “They look to score and they’re aggressive. I don’t think it will be just [Jamison] as a threat.”
Martinsville owns a VHSL-record 13 state titles, but has not won it all since 2006. Still, Edwards stressed that dealing with MHS’s combination of size and athleticism would be a tall task.
“I do think our inside players are going to have to compete and play hard,” Edwards said, referring to Nicely and fellow 6-2 senior Jacob Garber, as well as 6-3 junior Caleb Detamore. “My plan in the game is usually defensive. So we’re going to need strong defense from our inside players.”
If SHS wins today, it would face either Handley or Bruton in the semifinals Tuesday at VCU’s Siegel Center at 1 p.m. The championship game will be held Saturday at 1 p.m.
First, the Blazers will have to get by Martinsville, which may be better than its record indicates. The Bulldogs played Group AAA teams six times in a 2-5 start to the season, later mixing in challenging non-district games against private schools and larger teams from North Carolina.
That’s why the Blazers are taking a 10-loss team so seriously. SHS is coming off a 58-51 win in the Region III, D-3 championship last Saturday against Fort Defiance (17-10), which will play Abingdon (20-6) at 12:30 p.m. today at U.Va.-Wise.
“All year long, the kids have kind of made fun of me,” Edwards said. “But we’re still on a Bill Belichik one-game win streak.”
Here’s a glance at the other games involving city/county schools:
Spotswood Girls (26-1) vs. Patrick County (17-9), 6:15 p.m. at JMU: Spotswood High School senior point guard Bailey Williams and the Blazers are expecting a constantly shifting defense from Patrick County.
“It’s half-court traps and four different quarter-court defenses,” SHS coach Chris Dodson said. “They try to keep you off balance and to just think on each possession. For us, that’s where having a four-year point guard really benefits us.”
Williams also played Patrick County at the Convo in the playoffs two years ago. That experience, which included a win over Patrick, gives the Blazers a little extra confidence going into today’s Division 3 state quarterfinals. Williams said she’s excited to suit up in a lively environment at JMU – especially after Spotswood’s longest break of the season.
Even over holiday break, SHS was off for only six days. Today marks a full week since the Blazers beat Brookville, 60-41, for the Region III, D-3 title. Often-doubled post player Tayler Dodson and Williams both agreed the wait was painstaking, creating anxiousness. Chris Dodson said that also has created up-and-down practices, but that the favored Blazers are ready.
“I have confidence in all our girls,” Coach Dodson said. “They’ve been in some big games this year. We’ve played in big-time tournaments, on the road, in different states – they’re battle-tested as anybody else.”
Dodson said Spotswood is going up against a physical team in Patrick County, which boasts the Piedmont District co-Player of the Year in Ebony Reynolds, who embodies that physicality inside. The Cougars also have a 3-point specialist, Bri Dodson, and a driven senior leader in Hannah Helbert.
“Tayler had a great regional tournament,” Coach Dodson said of his daughter, who leads the team in rebounds and assists. “I think they’ll key on Tayler a little bit more because that’s what they saw, and hopefully that will open up Bailey and our other guards.”
East Rockingham Girls (26-1) vs. Charles City (17-6), 1 p.m. at JMU: All of East Rock coach Paul Comer’s scouting on Charles City has come by word of mouth, and word out of Region A is that the Panthers are fast, agile and play a lot of zone defense.
The defending Division 1 state champion Eagles have seen a lot of the latter.
“I think we’re OK on the offensive end,” Comer said. “Most nights we have shooters that can score for us. … [The key is] making sure we don’t get stagnant and stand around on the perimeter.”
Senior guard Jessica Lam, the Region B Player of the Year, has been East Rock’s most consistent shooter and will lead the Eagles into today’s state quarterfinal game against Charles City. She’s scoring about 16 points per game but averaged 21.3 in three regional playoff games.
“She’s just been hot all year and we’ve tried to feed her the ball as much as we can,” Comer said.
But she’s not the only scoring threat. Charles City’s defenders will also have to deal with senior forward Sarah Cameron, who is coming off a 21-point outburst in a 56-37 win over top-seeded Altavista in the Region B title game. Cameron and sophomore point guard Madison Comer each average 11 points per game, giving the Eagles three players who average double figures.
Last year, East Rock had just one en route to a dominating state title run.
Favored to repeat as state champions, the Eagles – who remain balanced with Meghan Nicholson (8.4 ppg) and Katie Dofflemyer (7.9 ppg) – outscored opponents 201-109 in the regional tournament.
Cheyenne Davis led five Panthers in double figures with 19 points in its last victory, over Surry County, 70-50, in the Region A, D-1 semifinals.
“You never know,” Coach Comer said of the quality of East Rock’s state foes. “Things change from year to year and teams change over time. For us, we’re preparing to get the best from Charles City.”