If Green Run had beaten Stone Bridge on Saturday in the Class 5 state boys basketball championship game, the Stallions would have finished the season 10-0.
Why is that number significant?
It’s the jersey number of former Green Run star player Ashley “AJ” James, who died March 2 from an accidental shooting before the start of the state playoffs a year ago.
Last season, the Stallions won a share of the state title with James as their motivation. But winning the state outright was their goal this season.
And unfortunately for them, they came up short. But it wasn’t because of lack of effort.
Green Run grabbed hold of the lead early as the Stallions jumped to a 36-18 lead late in the first quarter. Many thought the Stallions were going to cruise to another state title.
The Stallions were hoping to become the first boys team from Virginia Beach to win back-to-back titles since Bayside did it in 1990 and 1991. And they were looking to become the first team from Hampton Roads to win back-to-back since Norcom won four in a row from 2014-17.
But Stone Bridge, of Ashburn — playing on its home court — wasn’t going down without a fight.
And not only did the Bulldogs scratch their way back into the game in the third quarter, they tied the game in the fourth quarter and pulled away in the final five minutes, outscoring the Stallions 23-12.
It was a tough loss to take, including for the seniors, Jacob Cooper, Elijah Kennedy, Jaiden McIntosh, George Wilson and Adrieck Gill.
Green Run coach Kenneth Harris said it was tough having that final talk with the team.
“It’s never a good feeling to lose,” Harris said. “But it’s not the end of the world. … I’m still proud of my seniors.”
Before Harris and the Stallions boarded the bus to head 3 1/4 u00bd hours back to Virginia Beach, the conversation turned to Cooper and Kennedy, who finished their final high school game with 29 and 21 points, respectively.
Cooper developed into one of the top guards in the state. Last season, he was named the Virginia High School League Class 5 All-State Player of the Year. He finished as one of the top five scorers in school history.
Many thought Kennedy’s career was over after he suffered a devastating knee injury his sophomore year during the region tournament at Scope. He not only came back but became one of the purest shooters in the state.
That’s why it was so hard for Harris to see the season end.
“They should be proud of themselves,” Harris said about the duo. “Three out of their four years, they went to the state tournament. They put their stamp as two of the greatest players who played for Green Run. And there’s a lot of great players who have come out of Virginia Beach. They will always be talked about.”
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, email@example.com