LENOIR, N.C. – The "Battle of the Blue Ridge" was missing some key combatants Thursday night. Each program – Oak Hill and Patterson – was short on firepower for its annual scrimmage.
The most noticeable absence was on the Oak Hill side. Willie Warren, a Scout.com Top 25 prospect, was nowhere to be found. Earlier in the day he had been dismissed from the school. "Willie decided he couldn't adhere to school and team rules so he's better off somewhere else," Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. It's not yet known where he'll surface this fall.
While Smith was dealing with Warren, Patterson School coach Chris Chaney was down a few men as well. Forwards Isaiah Rusher and Rodrigo Peggau were out with injuries. Wings Nate Miles and Chris Turner were suspended for the game. Before the "Battle of the Blue Ridge" began, we had 5 MIA's combined from the two rosters.
Minus the star power expected to be in attendance, the game went on and one point guard brought it. You can bet Courtney Fortson had this one circled on his calendar: a chance to match wits against Brandon Jennings.
While Fortson was locked in, Jennings' situation was different. With Oak Hill minus a top scorer in Warren, points were going to have to come from somewhere. For Oak Hill to come away with the win, a big night from Jennings would be required.
Didn't happen as Jennings appeared to be forcing the offense early and Fortson served up a stellar game.
Patterson won the scrimmage (we only counted the first two halves) 96-74 as it defeated Oak Hill 46-33 in the first half and then won 50-41 after the clock was reset for the second.
Fortson sliced his way through Oak Hill's defense for 19 points in the first half on 7-for-12 from the field. Though not as tall, Fortson was Jennings' equal in speed and stronger physically. Oak Hill had a difficult time keeping him away from the rim where he's not only a strong safety as a finisher but a super rebounder for his position.
Fortson's outstanding game leaked over into the second half of the scrimmage. With 2 minutes remaining and the score tied at 39, he rattled off 2 straight buckets and that was it for Oak Hill's comeback. With Arkansas' John Pelphrey in the stands, Fortson did his thing. The capper was when he posted up Jennings for a hoop. Fortson finished with 29 points (12-18 FG), 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
On the flipside, Jennings struggled all night, often settling for fadeway 3-pointers (3-for-11). Though he accumulated 25 points he shot just 8-for-22 from the field. He snared 6 boards and handed out 5 assists, Jennings uncharacteristically turned it over 10 times.
With Fortson setting the tone in the backcourt, Patterson received a huge lift from Freddy Asprilla. The 6-foot-10 FIU commitment owned his area, ran the floor and outplayed all of Oak Hill's big guys. In much better shape than we've seen him in the past, Asprilla was the aggressor inside. Before the game the decided edge would have been in Oak Hill's favor but Asprilla single handedly swayed it Patterson's way. Asprilla had a hand in putting 4 first half fouls on Keith Gallon. Plus, Patterson dominated the glass as a team.
Understanding that this was a scrimmage and each team was without key players, it was bound to be a little ragged. Oak Hill entered the game needing someone to step up and not fill Warren's shoes but replace some offense. Guard Bryon Allen stepped up his game at both ends. Playing just days after losing his grandmother, he was Oak Hill's lone bright spot in the second quarter when he scored 8 points, defended and energized his team.
Overall, Chaney's team had more guys step up and make plays. For instance, shooter Kurt Fenderbosch came off the bench and made three straight trifectas in the second half. Varez Ward passed and rebounded the ball extremely well. Darius Johnson-Odom stuck his nose in on the glass.
Oak Hill senior Dan Jennings is getting into better shape and his weight loss is noticeable. … Colleges In Attendance – Arkansas, Bradley, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Appalachian State, Florida International, Charlotte, New Mexico.