Fishburne postgrads begin stretch run with Military Challenge
The coaches strolling the sidelines at this weekend’s Fishburne Military School Scotto’s Military Challenge will be wearing sneakers as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge to bring awareness to cancer research.
Several college coaches are expected to be on hand due to a different kind of awareness.
“The Military Challenge is a good event because you have four of the top military-school programs in the country represented here, and you’ve got some of the best talent in the country coming here this weekend. There are also some pretty good unsigned players, so you can expect to see some college coaches here trying to get a look at some guys who can do some things for their programs. It should be a good weekend,” said Ed Huckaby, the coach of the Fishburne Military School postgraduate team, which is ranked fourth in the nation in this week’s national poll.
The Caissons are one of three teams in this weekend’s Military Challenge ranked in the national polls, with 12th-ranked Gray Military Academy and 14th-ranked St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in town.
In the tourney opener at 6 p.m. Friday, Fishburne gets its first look this season at Fork Union. FUMA is in its first season under Brooks Berry, who took over for the legendary Fletcher Arritt.
Fork Union’s biggest weapon is 6’9″, 215-pound forward Brett Wishon, who is effective in the post and has range out to the three-point line.
“Wishon is a tough guard. Fork Union’s strength is in the post. Wishon and Kyle Buffkin (6’10”, 220) can both create matchup problems. That’s where your focus has to be,” Huckaby said.
Then on Saturday at 8 p.m., FMS plays Gray Military Academy in the Classic finale with an eye toward getting at least some measure of revenge from a 100-99 loss on Nov. 30. The Caissons led that game by 12 points with seven minutes left, but a furious Gray rally capped by a Travis Hammonds three with 4.2 seconds left sent the War Eagles home with the upset.
“We’ve got to learn to close games out. Bottom line. No excuses with that one,” Huckaby said. “We dominated that game for long stretches, but we couldn’t close them out. You’ve got to play 40 minutes of basketball, not 35 or 30 or whatever you feel like playing that night. I hope we’ve learned that lesson.”
In other action this weekend, St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy will play Gray on Friday at 8 p.m. and Fork Union on Saturday at 6 p.m.
FMS opened the 2012-2013 season with a tough 79-74 win at St. John’s on Oct. 30.
“That’s a solid, well-coached basketball team,” said Huckaby of St. John’s, whose roster features three high-profile recruits, Jeron Wilbut, a 6’3″ guard who has signed with Seton Hall, Jevon Thomas, a 6’0″ guard who has signed with Kansas State, and Trevor Thompson, a 6’11” center who is headed to Virginia Tech.
For FMS, the Challenge is the start of a key stretch that includes games with #3 Hargrave at home on Feb. 6 and on the road at Fork Union on Feb. 12 that will go a long way toward determining if the Caissons will have a chance to play in the postseason.
“This team is national championship caliber, but we have to go out and take care of business. It starts this weekend. We’ve just got to go out and win games,” Huckaby said.
“We have that kind of talent, and I think we’re starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end. The Massanutten game shows what we can do on defense. They got a lot of calls and shot 51 free throws, but that was because the officials were bailing them out. We took care of business in that game, and if we play defense that way every night, there’s nobody in the country that can beat us. You can write that down,” Huckaby said.