Guarded approach propels James Monroe to first state berth in 12 years

by | Feb 20, 2024 | ALLFFP, Fredericksburg, Lead Story, Sports

When the James Monroe boys basketball team’s potent four-guard lineup went into attack mode early in the Yellow Jackets’ Region 3B semifinal against visiting Skyline Tuesday night, Michael Edwards noticed the Hawks wanted little to do with his team’s quickness. 

“When we came out and played how we play, they were backing up on defense,” Edwards said. “They were giving us the shot and when we attacked, there was no help. That’s what we like. That’s what we love.” 

James Monroe’s starting guards combined for 75 points in their 93-73 rout of the Hawks, clinching the Yellow Jackets’ first state tournament berth since 2012. 

The No. 2 seed Yellow Jackets (21-5) will visit top-seeded Meridian (22-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Falls Church for the region championship. Regardless of that outcome, both teams will advance to the Class 3 state tournament. 

It will be the Yellow Jackets’ first appearance at the state level since a quarterfinal loss to Fluvanna 12 years ago. 

James Monroe is enjoying a banner season that also includes a Battlefield District tournament title. The stands were filled Tuesday with community members and alumni. 

“I was born and raised here,” JM head coach Chuck Ellis said. “Our high school coach, Mike Trant, was here tonight to support. I hadn’t seen him in years … I played here myself and won a district championship. So, it is beautiful to see these guys get an opportunity to win, as well.” 

Five JM players scored in double figures, paced by junior guard Dezaun Robinson’s 23 points. Edwards added 20. Freshman guard Makel Minor contributed 18 and senior guard Tee Ford poured in 14, including a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer that sent the hosts into the locker room with a 44-28 advantage. 

E’Shun Davis provided 10 points off the bench. 

The game was stopped late in the third quarter after Robinson’s 3-pointer gave him 1,000 points for his career. Robinson was presented with a jacket and a ball to commemorate the milestone. 

Robinson said it was a special moment, especially considering his brother passed away recently. 

“My teammates helped me accomplish a big goal and I’m just thankful for everybody around me and the support,” Robinson said. “I appreciate everybody … I really enjoyed that moment.” 

The Yellow Jackets got off to a hot start in the first quarter as Edwards poured in 10 points. They led 18-9 after one. A quick second-quarter flurry, fueled by pressure defense, propelled JM to a 36-23 advantage.  

The Yellow Jackets’ lead ballooned to 20 points at 49-29 in the third quarter before the Hawks responded. Caden Thorne connected on four 3-pointers in the third for Skyline as it cut its deficit to 53-46, prompting a discussion on the JM sideline. 

“We were just trying to do too much,” Edwards said. “Everybody was trying to do their own thing and we had to call timeout. Coach told us to calm down and go back to doing what we did in the first half.” 

The Yellow Jackets quickly regained their composure as an Edwards pass to Minor went between a defender’s legs for a layup and a 57-46 lead. Robinson followed with his milestone 3-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets a 60-46 cushion and Skyline drew no closer than 12 points the rest of the way. 

Even though JM will move on no matter what happens Friday, the Yellow Jackets are aiming for a regional title and a more favorable draw in the state tournament. 

“We want everything,” Ellis said. 

Skyline               9 19 29 16 – 73 

James Monroe 18 26 25 24 – 93  

Skyline (18-7): Isiah Maxwell 2, Colby Wood 16, Dwayne Tucker 18, Ahsan Abul-Qasim 3, Cameron Kerns 5, Caden Thorne 14, Cole Logan 4, Andre Ford 11. Totals 28 10-18 73. 

James Monroe (21-5): Dezaun Robinson 23, Tee Ford 14, Michael Edwards 20, Brandon Williams 2, Jeremiah Branson 4, Makel Minor 18, E’Shun Davis 10, Davion Johnson 2. Totals 33 21-24 93. 

3-pointers: Skyline 7 (Thorne 4, Tucker, Logan, Ford). James Monroe 6 (Edwards 3, Ford 2, Robinson). 




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