By CHIP CIRILLO | Photos by ANDY COLLIGNON
With a Nashville television station covering the game, Vanderbilt fans got a glimpse of their future.
Darius Garland didn’t disappoint, as the Commodore signee scored 42 points in Brentwood Academy’s 79-58 win over visiting Ensworth on Monday night.
“Darius had a terrific offensive game, obviously,” Eagles coach Hubie Smith said. “He made a lot of shots, he got great shots and he got our other guys involved, too. I think our guys love to play on TV.”
Garland showcased his shooting ability with seven 3-pointers and he ended the first half with a steal and a dunk, giving BA a 33-22 lead.
The 21-point margin of victory was much bigger than BA’s three-point cushion in a 62-59 win at Ensworth six days earlier.
“We got a lot of defensive stops and easy buckets off transition,” said Garland, a semifinalist for the Naismith national high school boys basketball player of the year award. “My teammates got me open and, luckily, I made shots, but they got me the ball. We’re definitely peaking at the right time.”
BA (20-5, 11-1 Division II-AA East-Middle Region) extended its win streak to eight and clinched at least a tie for the league title.
“Basically, this is our third season. We’re going into tournament time so we have to start getting ready for that,” said Garland, a McDonald’s All-American.
Ensworth coach Greg Eubanks knew Garland would play well with the MyTV 30 television cameras in the gym.
“You turn the TV lights on in a gym where Darius has probably taken – no exaggeration — 30,000, 40,000 shots in and he’s going to shoot the ball pretty well,” Eubanks said. “So, he’s just spectacular. I’m sure a bunch of Vanderbilt fans were watching on TV.”
Eubanks said it’s impossible to contain a player with that type of skill set.
“We tried a couple different things and weren’t successful at it,” Eubanks said. “There was a time where one of our guys was guarding him and did a good job for the first 15 seconds of the possession. But then he lost sight of him and he cuts back to the basket.
“He’s just so elusive and slick. There’s a reason he will be Mr. Basketball and he’ll be able to do the same type of stuff next year against Division I and the SEC.”
Garland’s ability to will his team to victory reminds Eubanks of former Ensworth star Corn Elder, who was in the crowd at Ensworth last week.
“And Darius is an underrated defensive player,” Eubanks said.
Dominic Wynn led Ensworth (13-13, 6-6) with 17 points and Keyshawn Collier added 12. Warren Zager scored 11 for the Tigers, who fell behind 58-39 after the third quarter.
“Darius was knocking down his shots and he was just in a rhythm, and he led us to victory, really,” BA guard Cam Johnson said. “I think (Ensworth) just tried to pressure him a lot and it got him open more than what they thought it was going to. They started trapping us and whenever trap us they’re going to lose him and he capitalized on those.”
Garland has scored about 2,300 career points for the three-time defending state champs.
BA could win the region title by beating McCallie on Tuesday.
Ensworth visits Pope John Paul II on Tuesday
McCallie visits Brentwood Academy on Tuesday