John Marshall rolling toward second straight state title

3/1/2019, 6 a.m.
In its quest for a second straight state basketball title, Richmond’s John Marshall High School has switched from a No. ...
John Marshall High School senior Aubrey Merritt goes up for the score during the Justices’ 100-62 victory over Culpeper County High School on Feb. 22 in the regional final. Photo by James Haskins Richmond Free Press

In its quest for a second straight state basketball title, Richmond’s John Marshall High School has switched from a No. 1 single star to a galaxy of shining lights.

Among those making Coach Ty White’s eyes twinkle brightest is versatile 6-foot-1 senior guard Aubrey Merritt.

“Aubrey’s a leader, selfless and tough as nails,” Coach White said after the team’s 100-62 rout of Culpeper County High School in the Feb. 22 Class 3, Region B final held in Richmond at Huguenot High School.

Merritt is one of four senior standouts returning from last year’s 3A State title run.

Rather than list his position as guard, forward or center, Merritt is more of a hybrid. His per-game averages of 12 points and six assists don’t reveal the full extent of his capabilities.

“He does whatever I ask,” Coach White said. “If I ask Aubrey to score, he scores. If I ask him to pass, he passes. If I ask him to take out the trash, he takes out the trash.”

John Marshall won last year’s title with marquee attraction Isaiah Todd, who was rated among the top players in the nation in the Class of 2020. Todd has since transferred to Trinity Academy in Raleigh, N.C.

Without Todd, the Justices haven’t lost their pole position in the State 3A’s fast lane. If anything, the blue and white clad team from North Side might have even shifted up a gear.

“We lost one star, so we all go harder on offense and defense,” Merritt said. “The goal is the same — the state championship, absolutely.”

For now, Merritt is leaning toward taking his cross-over dribble to Life University in Marietta, Ga., but he’s keeping his options open. He figures to continue to impress as John Marshall edges closer to another state crown.

If basketball was a game of poker, Coach White would be holding a fistful of aces. Here are the first six in minutes logged:

Merritt: Splits ball-handling duty with Levar Allen. He is a threat from a distance and relentless in pressure defense.

Jairus Ashlock (6-foot-4, senior): Another all-round performer, he excels in the open floor and attacks the rim with vengeance.   

Levar Allen (6-foot-1, senior): This four-year starter runs the show. He is surprisingly quick and nimble at 227 pounds.

DeMarr McRae (6-feet, senior): Has huge NCAA Division I potential. He peaked in the region semifinals with 43 points against Richmond’s George Wythe High School.

Elijah Seward (6-foot-0, junior): An excellent shooter and jumper. He wowed the crowd with a two-handed, alley-oop slam against Culpeper.

Roosevelt Wheeler (6-foot-10, sophomore): Known as the “human eraser” for his shot-blocking skills. He had eight blocks against Culpeper.

Add to that a group of bench players who’d be starters on many other 3A squads. Also, John Marshall had a strong junior varsity season with eighth-grader Te’Quan Allen, Levar Allen’s brother, an exciting up-and-comer.

For the second straight year, the Justices have continued gathering momentum throughout season.

Last year’s team won its last 13 games in a row and 19 of its final 20 games.