Accepting an invitation to grow

Published 11:10 am Monday, December 24, 2018

Buckingham County High School’s varsity boys basketball team entered the recent Goochland Holiday Invitational with a 3-0 season record and came out of the event with two losses, but the experience may have been a net gain overall for the Knights.

“It definitely presented some challenges for us, which was good for us,” Knights Head Coach Taylor Boyers said. “We played good competition …”

On Thursday, Buckingham took on Broadway High School, a Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 3 team, and lost 64-44 at Goochland High School. On Friday, the Knights fell 69-61 to King William High School, a fellow VHSL Class 2 team that Boyers said is going to be in the playoffs.

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“So, I’m glad we got to experience that and challenge ourselves a little bit,” he said. “It’s just going to help us later on in the season when we get into district play.”

In the loss to Broadway, Buckingham sophomore guard Amari Toney scored nine points and senior guard Andrew Johnson Jr. added eight.

Against King William, Toney led the Knights with 25 points, while junior guard Nakemien “Kemi” Jones and Johnson scored nine apiece.

“I think we shot the ball well both nights …” Boyers said Friday evening. “The whole season, really, it’s been a positive for us (to have) different guys stepping up each night. It’s been big for us. Tonight it was Amari Toney. It’s just someone different every night for us. We don’t rely too heavily on one player. We keep it balanced, offensively.”

Toney and Jones were named to the Goochland Holiday Invitational all-tournament team.

Of Toney, Boyers said, “I’d say he’s definitely our most improved player from last year. He was our third-leading scorer last year, but he’s worked so hard in the offseason and just really improved his game overall.”

The coach noted that Jones has been a significant difference-maker for the team so far this season.

“Whether coming off the bench or in a starting role, he just brings kind of a calming presence for us a little bit at times,” Boyers said. “He’s just really solid with the ball, and he does some good things defensively. He’s been big for us this year, though, for sure.”

Just prior to the Goochland event, Buckingham secured a key win against a notable VHSL Class 2 rival when it topped host Appomattox County High School 57-51 on Dec. 17. Boyers was pleased with his team’s poise in the waning moments of that contest.

“In a rivalry game like that on the road … we just did things right, late in the game, and I was proud of our guys just closing the game out,” he said. “Appomattox is a tough place to play. They were undefeated going into that game, and it’s a team we can possibly see later on in the regional playoffs as well, so that was a big win for us. Any time you can win road games, it’s big.”

Toney scored 25 points against the Raiders, hitting six three-pointers. Buckingham junior forward Jalen Chambers also contributed nine points and 10 rebounds.

The Knights (3-2) return to action Wednesday, Jan. 2, when they visit Cumberland County High School, currently 2-3, at 7 p.m.

“We’ll be off till then, practicing over the break,” Boyers said, adding that Christmas is “a good time for us to kind of recharge a little bit and get some rest.”

Now with the team a few weeks into the season, the coach noted that his players who participated in football this year have adapted nicely.

“I think they’ve, at this point, kind of got their basketball legs under them,” he said. “Those guys have contributed well for us, kind of bringing a little physicality, football mentality to our team. They bring some defensive pressure and physicality we like to have.”