Day 1: Captains cruise past Point

Rayshard Brown scored Christopher Newport's first basket a few seconds into the game and the Captains were off and running.
Christopher Newport athletics file photo 

By Ryan Scott

Four 20-point games betray the quality of basketball at the 2016 Hoopsville Classic. The final game of the night featured No. 2 Christopher Newport taking on perennial power UW-Stevens Point. The first half was tense, high energy basketball, with Point milking the shot clock and locking down on defense. A half-court shot at the buzzer from Pointer Ethan Bublitz cut the Captains' daunting 32-21 deficit to a more manageable 32-24.

In the second half, however, the depth, experience, and speed of CNU took over. Junior Aaron McFarland and senior Tim Daly led the way for the Captains, scoring 17 and 14 respectively, while sophomore Ethan Bublitz was among the standouts for Stevens Point; he contributed 16 for the Pointers, including the aforementioned buzzer beater. The final score was 71-51.
Marcus Carter, CNU’s leading scorer from last year, had foul trouble in the first half; the team didn’t miss a beat. The Captains don’t need him to win.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team where the leading scorer is also a luxury. It makes them very hard to beat, because, you know, Marcus Carter is actually playing and he scores a bunch of points. Tyler Femi and Rayshard Brown have improved over the summer, giving CNU essentially four interchangeable ball handlers. This is exhibit A in why the first game of the season shouldn’t ever be considered in evaluating a team. Christopher Newport looked shaky and tentative (by their standards) in a win over Randolph-Macon on Tuesday, but none of that was evident just three days later at the Hoopsville Classic.

This Stevens Point team had a lot of questions coming into the year – most notably the lack of experienced upperclassmen.  The sophomore class is doing just fine – they exhibit the kind of poise, discipline, and confidence you expect from Bob Semling’s teams, along with the ability to score and defend.  They’re going to be better than I thought and will probably surprise their share of opponents within the WIAC and without.  I look forward to seeing how they matchup against a fast-paced, but less-disciplined Lynchburg team on Saturday.

The marquee Saturday matchup, though, will be Christopher Newport taking on No. 17 Marietta in the final game of the weekend.  The Pioneers dominated Albright in a game that ended up being the closest of the day, 74-56, but was never actually close.  Lions coach, Rick Ferry, said his team may have been a little intimidated in the first half, when Marietta started 12-0.  The game was already well in hand by the time Albright began fighting back after halftime.  They did win the second half, but both benches had been emptied by then, with 29 total players seeing the floor and 23 of them scoring.

Senior AJ Edwards led the way for Marietta with 16 points in just 19 minutes of play.  Freshman Fred Rowles led Albright with 10 points and 8 rebounds.  Albright plays Randolph-Macon at 2pm Saturday.  Marietta, while young, has a similar roster and style to CNU.  The Pioneers will certainly be the underdog, but have the potential to match the speed, style, and depth of the Captains if things go their way.  Both schools should have sizeable, vocal cheering sections on Saturday.

The first game on Friday featured Randolph-Macon and Skidmore in what appeared to be an even matchup in the first half.  RMC rode hot shooting (56% from the floor, 71% from deep) to a 37-30 lead at the break.  Skidmore regrouped in the second half, led by their well-renowned backcourt of sophomore Edvinas Rupkus and senior Aldin Medunjanin, who finished with 18 and 20 points respectively.

Randolph-Macon hit none of the seven threes they took in the second half while Skidmore shot 65% from the floor to cruise to an 80-60 victory.  Senior Michael Taylor had 20 points to lead the Yellow Jackets; sophomore John Nowell has 17 points and 7 rebounds.  RMC plays Albright at 2 PM ET; Skidmore gets host Stevenson at 4 pm.

Experience made the difference in the first half of Lynchburg and Stevenson.  The Hornets start two seniors while the Mustangs start two freshmen and gave seven significant minutes.  Lynchburg used aggressive defense and strong post play to reach a 20 point lead with four to go in the half.  Stevenson settled down, battled back, and cut the deficit to 10 at the half, 48-38.

Lynchburg really got their pace going in the second half, extending the lead and scoring at a clip the tournament hosts could not match.  The young Mustangs hung tough and played hard, but in the end, it was too much, falling 101-80.  Benjamin Young and Tim McNeal each had 13 to pace Stevenson; Connor Schroeder had 20 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play for Lynchburg.  Stevenson takes on Skidmore at 4pm Saturday; Lynchburg faces Stevens Point at 6.