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Mekhi Hendricks scored 40! - Jan 28, 2017


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DAVID EDOLE
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By Peter Brewington

Even Mekhi Hendricks' free throws splash through the net with a perfect ripple.

The Highland School junior shooting guard continued his prolific scoring Thursday with 24 points and four 3-pointers in a 83-64 victory over long-time rival Seton School.

A transfer from Strasburg High, Hendricks describes himself as shy -- a label that may surprise some considering his brazen shotmaking.

But it's true, Hendricks embodies a modest demeanor and low profile. On a well-balanced team he takes shots within the offense. Despite a three-game stretch where he averaged 31 points a game, he's the same Mekhi.

'It was an easy decision to come here,' he said. 'The students have been so nice. When they found out I was new, they took the time to talk to me. I've always been the shy one. It's a great place.'

On Jan. 21, Hendricks' 3-pointer with 14 seconds left beat Wakefield 70-69. On Jan. 24, he hit seven 3-pointers and scored a school-record 40 points as the Hawks (18-3) edged Fredericksburg Academy 73-72.

Thursday against Seton, he was at it again. He didn't score at all in the first quarter, missing a few, but not getting frustrated.

'They were not falling so I tried to get to the rim,' said Hendricks, who complements his dagger-like shooting with a hesitation move that buys him time and space. 'I learned that when I was young,' he said.

Hendricks hit his first 3-pointer in the second quarter and finished with seven points in the quarter. He had nine more in the third and closed the quarter with long three in front of his own bench. On that shot, Hendricks held his follow-through as the ball swished through the net with the buzzer sounding a second later.

Highland had problems stopping Seton guard Christian Nguyen, a 5-foot-7 transfer from John Paul the Great who scored 26 points. Despite his size, Nguyen was a terror with his lightning quick release and vertical leap.

Highland coach Brian Hooker ordered his team to trap Nguyen whenever he had the ball in the halfcourt, and that helped lead the Hawks to a very solid win.

Seton (10-6) struggled for other offensive sources, and were eventually ran out of the gym by Highland's dynamic balance.

'The big thing for us is when we play solid defense we're a much better team,' said Hooker. 'The last couple of games we've played up to our potential.'

Highland led 17-10 after the first, and took a 37-29 halftime lead thanks to Luke Rodgers' 3-pointer from the left wing.

The Hawks poured it on in the third quarter. It started with a 12-0 run and just kept going as Highland outscored Seton 31-13 in the quarter for a 68-42 lead after three.

The Hawks moved to 18-3 with everyone playing well. Star sophomore point guard Darret Justice took care of the ball flawlessly and scored 14 points, including 12 on layups that saw him glide gracefully to the hoop. Backup shooting guard and co-captain Kenny Clark-Suggs made two 3-pointers and scored 13.

Center Anthony Martinez scored nine, and slashing starting guard Luke Rodgers had eight.

All this great work lately has put Highland in line for a berth in the VISAA Division II state tournament, which eluded them last year.

Highland's smart players are well-educated in how tough it is to make the 12-team state tourney bracket, which is filled with some of the most talented private school powers in the state. They were No. 10 early in the year, dropped out, but have worked hard to get back in, which happened this week.

'We're No. 10 now in the rankings, if we can sustain it we can jump to No. 9,' said Hendricks.

'Division 2 from top to bottom is as good as Division I,' said coach Hooker, who was an assistant coach last year and watched Highland win both the Delaney Athletic Conference regular season and tournament, but miss the state tournament.

Hooker said a key to the season is that everyone is contributing. The Hawks have three standouts in Justice, Hendricks and Martinez. But the contributions don't end there as a string of role players have stepped up, including Rodgers, Clark-Suggs, Nate Decker and Timmy Stephan. Starter Ben Babcox is hurt right now.

'We have some overlooked players and guys that accept their role,' Hooker said. 'Kids have bought in."

The game was marred briefly when Martinez cut his eyebrow after taking a shot from Seton player on an intentional foul. Blood was cleaned from the court as Martinez left immediately. He was seen later with a bandage holding his eyebrow together.

Hooker said the play was just part of basketball. 'Seton plays hard, we respect them, there's no ill will,' he said.   




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