Chantilly center John Manning put on a shot blocking clinic and the Chargers’ boy’s basketball team garnered one of its greatest wins in program history last Saturday night in a 69-57 Northern Region playoff victory over Mount Vernon. The region semifinals contest took place at Robinson High School.
Chantilly, with the win, advanced to Monday’s region title game versus Langley (see related story) and also earned a trip to the Virginia state AAA playoffs for the first time since 1992.
“It feels great to win but we still can’t get too excited,” said Manning, who said his team still had more to accomplish following the win over the Majors.
Manning, Chantilly’s 7-foot junior pivot, provided plenty of excitement with his outstanding shot blocking display against Mount Vernon, a smaller team that saw numerous driving shot attempts in the lane get swatted away. The Majors simply could not get off good shots inside the paint, in large part because of Manning. Skylar Jones, Mount Vernon’s 6-4 senior forward and best player was limited to just seven points (2 field goals). The Majors’ standout player worked hard inside, grabbing 11 rebounds, but had a difficult time scoring in the presence of Manning.
Mount Vernon’s only real offensive firepower in the game came from sophomore guard Michael Lewis, who shot the lights out from the outside (five, 3-pointers) on way to a 24-point night. But it was not enough for the Majors, who finished the season 20-4.
Manning scored 11 points with five rebounds. But the most eye-catching statistic for the front court game-changer was his 11 blocks, seven of which came in the third quarter. In earlier region playoff wins over Marshall and West Potomac last week, he had blocked seven and eight shots, respectively.
“The casual fan doesn’t understand how much John changes a game,” said Jim Smith, the Chantilly coach.
Manning said he felt he was on his game both offensively and defensively against Mount Vernon, a member of the National District.
“I was just trying to be smart, stay out of foul trouble and to go straight up [on shot block attempts],” said Manning, who did ultimately foul out late in the game after the contest was well in hand for the Chargers. “And it worked out for me.”
Manning credited his teammates around him with also playing outstanding defense and making things easier for him.
“All of our players stepped up,” said Manning. “We were communicating very well. That’s usually the key for us.”
On offense, Manning accounted for perhaps the highlight play of the night early in the second quarter. He received a pass off the left side, got free with a dribble on the baseline before jamming in a two-handed dunk shot while being fouled. He converted the free throw and Chantilly held a 20-7 lead.
There were other times when, upon receiving a pass inside, Manning would look and dish the ball to an open teammate breaking towards the basket.
<b>CHANTILLY</b> also received an outstanding game from senior forward Adam Fridy, a 6-2 junior forward who led the Chargers with 16 points while also grabbing six rebounds. Fridy, at the recent Concorde District tournament, did not play in the Chargers’ heart-breaking, 43-42 overtime finals loss to Oakton on Feb. 20 because of an injury. Chantilly sorely missed him that night, but the Chargers have had him for their three region playoff wins. Manning, for one, could not be more pleased.
“It helps to have Adam back,” said Manning. “He really helps me on defense.”
Fridy, who scored six points in the first quarter to help Chantilly build a 13-7 lead over Mount Vernon, said having Manning inside on defense is almost like having an extra player on the floor.
“It’s great to have his presence in there,” said Fridy. “With his wing span, it almost gives us that extra defender – where it is six on five. All of the blocks he has had this year, it was [the result] of hard work in practice. He’s a great kid.”
Fridy said Chantilly never let up after building an early lead against Mount Vernon. The Chargers led by as many as 17-7 early in the second quarter and held a 30-23 advantage at halftime. In the third quarter, Mount Vernon was limited to 10 points, thanks in large part to Manning’s seven blocks, and Chantilly was pretty much in control at 44-33 after three quarters.
The lead reached 49-33 early in the fourth following a three-point shot from Fridy from the right wing. Mount Vernon closed to within seven points late in the game but got no closer. Chantilly helped itself greatly at the foul line in the fourth quarter, converting 16 of its 21 free throws. (The Chargers were 25-of-32 for the game). Jamie Danehower, a junior guard who scored all eight of his points during the final quarter, converted six of those fourth quarter foul shots for the Chargers.
Chantilly had good offensive balance with several players, along with Fridy, Manning and Danehower, pitching in. Kethan Savage, the Chargers’ top backcourt player and one of the better guards in the region, scored 14 points with six rebounds. His underhanded, swooping layup basket with two seconds left closed out the first half. Junior point guard Devin Ballam, meanwhile, scored seven points. Inside player Matt Howerton came off the bench to contribute five points and three boards, and senior forward Matt Dewitt nailed a second half three-point shot.
“We worked the ball and got it inside, and we hit our free throws,” said Fridy. “Once we got a lead we really pounded the ball [inside].”
Coach Smith expressed pride in his team’s outstanding play at regionals following the tough loss to Oakton in the district finals.
“They were obviously bitterly disappointed,” said Smith, of the championship game setback to the Cougars. “These guys could have pointed the finger [at each other], but there was none of that. [Prior to regionals], we told them we can beat anyone in this tournament. These kids believed it.”