The win-loss results were not what Herndon High boys’ basketball coach Chris Whelan wanted for his team when it competed at the highly touted Benedictine Tournament in Richmond over the holidays. But what the second-year Hornets’ coach saw out of his squad at the eight-team holiday tourney was plenty good enough.
"Benedictine is one of the best tournaments in the country," said Whelan, whose team went 0-3, with all of the setbacks being close, in Richmond. "They handled themselves well. It was very good competition. I knew what we were getting into."
Herndon lost its games in Richmond to Mills Godwin (Richmond), 53-50, on Dec. 27; New Rochelle (New York City), 70-65, on Dec. 29; and Holy Cross (New York City), 78-74, on Dec. 30.
All three opponents are high caliber, elite teams. Other schools represented in the tournament field included Baltimore schools Calvert Hall and Mount St. Joseph’s, ranked No. 10 and 20, respectively, in the nation.
<b>IT WAS NOT</b> the first time the Hornets have played nationally renowned programs. Earlier in the season, they met nationally ranked DeMatha High (Hyattsville, Md.), losing to the Stags 66-47 on Dec. 6 in the game played at Georgetown Prep.
Herndon stayed close in all three of the games in Richmond despite being without standout point guard Austin Hamilton, who injured a finger on Christmas Eve and could not play. Whelan, earlier this week, had hopes that the playmaker would be back in action for Herndon’s Concorde District home game against Oakton on Wednesday night, Jan. 7.
The Hornets also had to do without another key player, junior Randoll Anane, for the Holy Cross game as a result of a sprained wrist. Anane played in his team’s first two games in Richmond before the injury prevented him from playing in the third.
Coach Whelan said Anane, a team captain who is averaging eight points and four steals per game, is one of the better defensive players in the Northern Region.
Whelan said several players stepped up and played particularly well in Richmond, helping the Hornets ride out the injuries the best they could. Those players included senior guard Marshall Hamilton, a team captain who started in a couple of the holiday contests and junior Chris Hightower. Hamilton scored 19 points in the game against New Rochelle and handled the ball well, according to Whelan.
<b>WHELAN HAS</b> purposefully scheduled difficult early season opponents in order to better prepare his team for the bulk of the Northern Region season ahead. While Herndon carried a mundane .500 record (5-5) following a 71-68 overtime win at Concorde District opponent Centreville earlier this week, Whelan believes his squad can be one of the elite teams in the region. The three holiday tournament losses were bitter, but hardly deflating.
"I think they responded fine," said Whelan, of his team’s overall play in Richmond. "We’re just going to continue to work hard. We’re going to be a tough team."
Herndon, 2-0 in district play, has been led scoring wise this season by senior Isaac Johnson (20 points per game) and Austin Hamilton (16). Johnson had a huge night against Centreville, tallying a game-high 35 points. Three other Hornet players — Zack Ozycz (11 points), senior guard Marshall Hamilton (10) and Darian Olson (10) — contributed double-digit scoring.
Herndon, following its scheduled home game against Oakton on Wednesday of this week, has district road games next week at Chantilly on Tuesday and at Robinson on Friday.