Life Chris­tian proves worth against elite

With eyes drawn to Spire and Ball, Ea­gles stand tall

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS 2 - BY JOE NEL­SON Quin­ton Mayo con­trib­uted to this re­port.

LaVar Ball was his usual out­spo­ken self af­ter his son LaMelo Ball’s team, Spire, de­feated Life Chris­tian 91-79 at Vir­ginia State Univer­sity on Wed­nes­day night.

“Spire is the most ex­cit­ing, en­ter­tain­ing high school bas­ket­ball team in the world,” Ball said.

The 2,000-plus fans in at­ten­dance show he has a case, but Life Chris­tian, a Rich­mond-area school, showed it’s at least in the same ball­park.

The ques­tion is whether Life Chris­tian has the po­ten­tial to be­come a rec­og­niz­able high school pro­gram around the coun­try, with the likes of Oak Hill and St. Vin­cent-St. Mary, which pro­duced LeBron James.

Life Chris­tian cer­tainly ap­peared to have the size and abil­ity to com­pete with some of the na­tion’s top tal­ent.

LCA also proved to pos­sess the ath­leti­cism to cre­ate high­light-reel plays that gar­ner big crowds and vi­ral views on the in­ter­net. The con­tin­ued col­le­giate re­cruit­ment of play­ers like Mar­cel­lus Avery (High­land Springs), Lo­gan Wash­ing­ton (Wood­side) and Antonio Bridy (Ge­orge Wythe) will also set the pro­gram apart.

Wed­nes­day’s large turnout proves just how many peo­ple in the Rich­mond area are in­ter­ested in high school bas­ket­ball, and they now know how ex­cit­ing LCA can be to watch.

Both teams’ pregame warm-up lines con­sisted of amaz­ing feats of ath­leti­cism, from wind­mill dunks to “jelly” layups made pop­u­lar by the Univer­sity of Min­nesota’s Now on­line

See photo high­lights from the Spire-Life Chris­tian show­case at Rich­mond.com.

Isa­iah Wash­ing­ton and many oth­ers. How­ever, ex­cite­ment reached a new level in the arena as LaVar, decked out in his sig­na­ture Big Baller Brand ap­parel, made his way into the gym along­side his mid­dle son and ex-UCLA bas­ket­ball player LiAn­gelo Ball.

The ex­cite­ment to see the Ball fam­ily car­ried over to the game as on­look­ers cheered, won­der­ing if Life Chris­tian had what it took to knock off one of the most rec­og­niz­able high school teams in the coun­try. Ev­ery 3-point shot, dunk, and stand­out de­fen­sive play seemed to ig­nite the crowd with loud cheers and ap­plause. The crowd was cheer­ing for Life Chris­tian, but many were clearly only present to heckle and root against LaMelo and his Spire team­mates.

LaVar watched the game with a gi­ant smile on his face as he laughed at the crowd’s re­ac­tions. He later said that this level of ex­cite­ment and fan­fare hap­pens ev­ery­where Spire trav­els. It is one rea­son why op­po­nents of Spire of­ten move the game to col­lege sta­di­ums or other large venues to ac­com­mo­date the large, rowdy crowds.

“This is en­ter­tain­ment, that’s all it is,” said LaVar, when asked about LaMelo’s im­pact on the Spire team.

Spire’s visit to the Rich­mond area may be in­spi­ra­tion for LCA to con­tinue to grow its pro­gram and gain even more re­spect on the na­tional level. LCA likely caught the at­ten­tion of many un­sus­pect­ing lo­cal bas­ket­ball fans.

ALEXA WELCH ED­LUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Life Chris­tian Acad­emy’s Marchel­lus Avery looks for a pass while guarded by Spire In­sti­tute’s LaMelo Ball (left) and Peter Fili­por­ity on Wed­nes­day. Spire won 91-79.

A cir­cus of at­ten­tion sur­rounded LaVar Ball (cen­ter) and his son, LaMelo, as Life Chris­tian hosted Spire In­sti­tute. LCA lost but kept things close, de­spite the chal­lenge.

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