In the brave new world on VHSL reclassification, if there’s one thing that is hard to find when it comes to postseason basketball, it’s consistency.
With teams continuing to play old “district” schedules while facing the reality of new opponents in next week’s inaugural “conference” tournaments, some have a good idea where they will start the playoffs, while others aren’t so sure.
There is no VHSL statewide standard on seeding conference tourneys for either boys or girls, so, for example, Conference 11, featuring Atlee and Lee-Davis, will operate its bracketing differently than Conference 20.
But there is one thing we do know: if the Hanover boys keeping winning in the regular season’s final week, they’ll be the top seed when the Conference 20 Tourney begins Tuesday night.
One of the few publicly released standings, the conference is using a power ratings system not unlike football, to seed the seven teams since few have played each other this season, with one very notable exception.
Friday night, in front of the most raucous student section in Central Virginia this season at Glen Allen High School, the Hawks and Jaguars squared off for the fourth time. Hanover had won two of the previous three games, both in overtime.
Now, add the spectacle of Glen Allen’s second annual “Silent Night” game, featuring hundreds of students in costume who didn’t utter a cheer until their Jaguars scored their 10th point (which occurred late in the first quarter), then erupted into a continuous roar of support, and there was a formula concocted for a Hawk breakdown.
But, in arguably their best performance of the season, it was Hanover that broke down the Jaguar offense, then the backs of their fans, using a huge second quarter to build a safe lead en route to a 70-53 win.
“Honestly, I felt like the big crowd actually helped us,” explained Hanover forward Cutch Elllis, who had 11 points. “We love playing in front of big crowds and we feed off that energy and excitement.”
Jalen Elliott, and the brother tandem of Jordan and Jason Wade, led a balanced scoring attack, all contributing 14 points. But it was their defense that disrupted the Jaguar attack. When Glen Allen did break the pressure and get to the free throw line, they cracked, shooting just 11-of-26 for the game.
The Hawks outscored the Jaguars 26-13 in the pivotal second quarter, their defense ensuring this game would be unlike any in the four-game series. By mid-fourth quarter, the impressive Jaguar crowd began to head for home.
“We knew it was a huge game for us, trying to get that number one seed in the tournament,” Ellis noted. “I just felt like there was actually more fire behind us.”
The Hawks found that fire extinguished at a tough place to play Tuesday night, falling at Highland Springs 85-67. A.J. Gaston led the Springers with 22 points, while Jordan Wade equaled that amount as the Hawks’ leading scorer. The loss left Hanover with a record of 13-7 with two games to go: home to Armstrong after press time on Wednesday night (weather permitting) and at Varina on Friday.
The Hawks keep a wary eye on Midlothian, now just behind them in that race for the number one seed. The Trojans’ 53-49 win Tuesday over Manchester in Chesterfield gave them a 13-8 mark. The top seed earns a bye in Tuesday’s first round of the Conference 20 Tournament.