Monarchs heating up

MEADOWBROOK – The Meadowbrook Monarchs might be viewed as a “surprise” team now, but appear to be evolving into a contender. After a mediocre 9-8 record last year and a loss in the first round of the Central District tournament, the Monarchs have already eclipsed that win total.

The name of the game is aggressive defense and a balanced offense with D-1 prospect shooting guard Brandon Cheeks and 5-foot-5 point guard Daquan Coleman as catalysts to the Monarchs’ success.

“We’re a team and we play as a whole,” said Coleman. “I’m a leader so I lead these guys to do the best they can.”

It turns out their best is pretty good. The Monarchs have played to a 10-4 record as of a press time with close losses to Potomac, Benedictine and Midlothian, and led Highland Springs in the fourth quarter before free throws sealed it for the Springers. Their overall success can be attributed to their efficient inside and out game that often finishes with a trio of bigs in Jeff Lee, Richard Legree and Ty’Shawn Jeter.

“We knew they could catch the ball and we knew these guys were athletes and could run the floor,” explained second year Meadowbrook Head Coach Jake Oliver. “But now these guys are putting the ball in the basket.”

Lee, a 6-7 junior is a bonafide D-1 football recruit at tight end and has developed as the team’s number one post option at 8 points and 6 rebounds per game. Jeter, a junior, and Legree, a sophomore, play valuable minutes as well. That balance takes opponents by surprise as they have to plan for a variety of threats- and oftentimes someone different contributes each game. Another valuable piece to the puzzle is swingman Khylil James, who makes plays on both offense and defense, hawking balls for steals as if he were in the Monarch’s secondary. Senior Terrelle Whitaker, also of the gridiron adds a nice shooting touch.

In the pre-season, Oliver made no bones about the fact that his team would struggle shooting from the outside, but the team has made just enough outside shots to keep defenses honest. Overall, the Monarchs shoot 46 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three. Coleman facilitates the offense well, and penetrates to find a big, or kicks out to a shooter.
“I can’t say enough about what Daquan has done for the team,” said Oliver. “He’s our floor general; he finds the open man and can score when needed.”

Coleman is small, quick and agile and is trusted to make the decisions for the offense. His ball handling skills allow him to find the open man and he’s built great rapport with Cheeks, who was his teammate on junior varsity. The duo also played AAU ball together.

“It seems like they’ve been playing together forever,” said Oliver.

Cheeks is capable of scoring a boatload of points, but has learned to incorporate his teammates more. For a guard, his 51 percent shooting percentage from the floor (62 percent from two-point range) is among the best figures in the state. The senior leads the team in scoring, (20.6 ppg) rebounding and steals. Delaware, Delaware State and Quinnipiac are among the D-1 schools interested in him.

“In the past I was worried about scoring,” said Cheeks. “Now I just want to win games with my teammates.”

The Monarchs season hasn’t been without some hardship, as Cheeks went down with an ankle injury early in last week’s Highland Springs game, but the team defeated Dinwiddie two days later without him. There’s no doubt the senior will be back out on the floor soon to help his team win.

Team chemistry should carry the Monarchs through that hardship and any other this season as the team is close-knit on and off the floor.

“Everyone gets along,” said Cheeks. “We hang, go out to eat, and have fun together- it’s a great vibe in the locker room.”

A key match-up to look forward to is when Meadowbrook hosts L.C. Bird on Wednesday January 29  for a 7:15 p.m. tip as the two foes from the newly formed conference 12 lock horns in what is a highly anticipated match-up. We’ll have updates of the game and all others on twitter @VNewsSports.

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