GOOCHLAND – To head boys basketball coach Preston Gordon, the great thing about multi-sport standout Kindrick Braxton is what he gives when he plays.
“It’s his heart and the character that he has when he’s playing and the warrior mentality that he has” – Gordon said – “but also the humbling kindness he has when he steps off the floor."
Gordon then smiled before adding: "He’s just got that genuine smile that’s contagious, and it’s hard not to smile back."
Earlier in the day on Saturday, Braxton played in the Big River Rivalry all-star senior showcase football game – and he played well. He caught an interception and ran it back for a touchdown in addition to making multiple tackles.
As soon as the game was over, Braxton called Gordon. With a chuckle, Gordon recalled how Braxton asked: “Coach, is it okay if I go to eat with my family?”
“I said, ‘Absolutely!’” Gordon said. “And then he said: ‘Can I still play?’ I said, ‘Yes!’ He said: ‘But I’m not gonna be at shoot-around before.’ I said, ‘That’s okay.’ ‘But can I still start?’ ‘Yes, you can still start.’”
So Braxton went from playing on the gridiron that afternoon to playing on the basketball court that same night.
The 6 points he contributed helped make the difference in his Bulldogs’ 63-60 victory over Lee-Davis.
“I don’t know if words can explain how much joy I have in my heart that he did what he did today,” Gordon said. “I was so proud of what he did – not many guys will do that…the other part about it, he’s a great student…I’m hoping that his stock rises a little bit after how he played today in football.”
Braxton's teammate J.B. Bell double-doubled on Saturday, scoring 20 points and hauling in 12 rebounds. The six-foot-seven sophomore made the most of his towering presence in the post; after Lee-Davis took a 1-point lead in the fourth quarter, he high-pointed a pair of passes from his teammates and, upon making both receptions, turned and shot both the go-ahead and insurance buckets. A 5-0 burst then put the visitors back ahead, but Bell, against two defenders, sunk the lead-getting layup.
“He’s a force for us on both ends of the floor, and we’ve talked about it multiple times within the coaching staff that we can go as far as he wants to take us,” Gordon said. “J.B., he’s playing more consistent…much more consistent than he was last year. He’s more of a threat and he’s getting the recognition that he should…I’m really proud of the strides that he’s making from one game to the next.”
Senior Quincy Snead, battling an issue with his shoulder, gave his Bulldogs 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals on Saturday night. When Lee-Davis threatened late, Snead drew the foul and knocked down both of his free-throw chances to help Goochland secure the win.
“He’s the heart and soul of the team and he gives so much effort,” Gordon said of Snead. “He’s getting us those gritty points."
Junior Kam Holman put in 10 points, added 7 assists and 4 steals and guarded the visitors into turning the ball over multiple times.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete,” Gordon said of Holman. “He can be so explosive; he can play above the rim. When he goes and gets some of those rebounds that he grabs, it’s just amazing.”
Kayshawn Smith stepped up to knock down clutch shots in the second half; he finished the game with 7 points. Senior Walker Murray tapped into a rhythm early to land all 8 of his points, including a pair of three’s, in the first half.
“He sent me a message this morning and said, ‘Hey Coach, when can I come get some shots up? I want to come early,’" Gordon recalled Murray saying, "and I was up here with my son and I said, ‘Come now.' And he came in for about an hour and he got shots up; we talked about some things that he could do a little bit better with his shot. He made the adjustments and his shot looked a whole lot better tonight than it did last night.”
The Bulldogs overall had talked about making an adjustment from Friday, when they lost to Patrick Henry, 63-52.
“We talked about how we weren’t very aggressive…we had a total of four offensive rebounds (on Friday),” Gordon said. “And tonight, (Bell) had four himself…offensive rebounding-wise, we had 13. That’s a huge difference…I’m going to give credit to Patrick Henry, because they were well-coached, they had a whole lot of size on them. Those guys, they played well with their bodies, so that’s the main reason that they hurt us last night, but I don’t think we were as aggressive offensively on the boards as we should’ve been.”
Passing was sharp throughout Saturday’s game, and it proved essential in helping the Bulldogs ward off the visitors in the closing moments.
Lee-Davis did have a late chance to go-ahead after a missed shot by the Bulldogs, but the visitors lost that chance on a turnover, and Snead’s clutch free-throws forced them into a must-tie situation. Their last-ditch three-pointer attempt fell short, and the Bulldogs held onto the ball for the last few seconds.
While the Bulldogs are off until 2020 (Monday, Jan. 6 at home versus Fluvanna), they’ll still look to spend time together as a team this holiday break, from going to VCU, doing a tacky light tour and going to Buffalo Wild Wings to getting Krispy Kreme and going bowling.
“It’s good for our guys – they need to spend time together; it’s a lot about trust when you’re back and forth and it’s such a fast-paced game,” Gordon said, adding: “These guys play for each other…they spend time together…they are together, which is great; that’s what makes us who we are.”