Aldie, Va. — Since they transferred to John Champe High School prior to the 2019-2020 season, Jalen and James Jasper have been a daunting duo for teams in the Cedar Run District and throughout Loudoun County. Last season, the Jasper twins led the Knights to an 18-7 finish, including an 8-2 mark in the Cedar Run. But with the end of their first season at John Champe came the exit of two all-district teammates: senior forward Tyler Savage—who graduated and enrolled at East Carolina—and junior forward Ishmael Carter—who transferred to Fairfax Christian.
With the exit of Savage and Carter, room opened up for the addition of juniors Jaden and Jalen Smith—transfers from Tuscarora High School—and on December 30, Jalen Smith quickly showed his value as he turned in a 10-point, 14-rebound double double as the Knights put together a solid second half to run past rival Freedom, 68-39, in Aldie.
“It’s a crawl, walk, run situation with him. He’s still trying to find his way,” John Champe head coach Walter Webb said. “Champe is very, very fortunate to get Jalen and his brother.”
Smith helped the Knights put together a 51-rebound performance—to the Eagles’ 22—completely dominating the boards on both the offensive and defensive ends.
“Rebounding was something we didn’t do well last year,” Webb said. “You have Jalen [Jasper] and James [Jasper], and they’re going to take shots, but to be able to get offensive and defensive rebounds, it allows us to stay on this end of the floor.”
While John Champe controlled the rebounding effort, Freedom managed to hang around for the first half—trailing just 29-21 heading into halftime—and doing so without junior guard Elijah Easter and senior guard Dom Jones, who they expect to return to the court in the near future.
“In the first half, we stuck to the game plan, the kids listened to the coaches, and we executed the defense perfectly,” Freedom head coach Justin Powers said. “We wanted to control the tempo at the start of the game, and in the first quarter, I thought we were patient and stuck to the game plan as long as we were physically able to, and then we just got exhausted.”
As Freedom continued to wear out, John Champe took advantage of their deep bench and the Jasper twins started to attack the rim, finish in the paint, and get to the foul line. Jalen Jasper finished with a game-high 23 points, while James turned in 12.
In addition to the Jasper and Smith brothers, John Champe junior forward Ryan Grzesiak added 11 points, 6 rebounds and sophomore guard Cameron Bryant chipped in 6 points, 10 rebounds.
John Champe (0-0, 3-0) has and will continue to have a strong schedule, knocking off VHSL 5A State semifinalist Potomac Falls on December 28 before turning around and defeating Freedom (0-1, 0-2). On January 2, the Knights will travel to Ashburn to tango with a tough Rock Ridge team before beginning their district schedule on January 5.
“Obviously, Freedom was missing a few really good players, but it’s always good to get a win especially against good teams and good competition,” Webb said. “When you can get games back to back to back against good teams with good coaches who give you some things to think about, that definitely helps prepare you.”
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