Byron and Zaria Gaskins are four grades apart, but their Christ Chapel coaches see a common thread between the two: a high basketball IQ.
The brother/sister tandem have helped the Lions into the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association State Tournament.
Christ Chapel’s boys are seeded third and will host the Veritas School Feb. 22 in a first-round game. Christ Chapel’s girls, seeded No. 5 is at No. 3 StoneBridge School Feb. 23 for a quarterfinal matchup. The boys are in states for the 10th straight time, while the girls have qualified on an off for the last 10 years.
This year’s tournament has a different format.
In the past, the VISAA seeded teams for the 12-team state tournament based on its weekly top-12 polls. But this year, the VISAA changed the tournament to an open invite without a team limit because of the pandemic. Schools had until 3 p.m. Feb. 8 to submit their request for inclusion in the tournament, while agreeing to comply with the COVI9-protocols.
Although states did not begin for another week, the VISAA’s basketball committee met Feb. 14 to determine the seeding to provide enough time for teams to test for COVID-19 before the first round begins Feb. 22.
Each player on a state tournament participant must also wear a mask in all games. No spectators are allowed for any of the championship games.
Christ Chapel is the only local school in the state tournament. They have worn masks for each of their games and played in front of no fans at their home games.
Both Byron and Zaria have attended Christ Chapel since kindergarten. Byron was a member of the Lions’ 2018 state champion as an eighth grader.
The 6-foot-1 junior guard gives Christ Chapel an offensive threat as a shooter (he once converted seven straight 3-pointers in a game), while also playing stellar defense.
He’s an “impressive defender who gets [his] hands on the ball as soon as it is unprotected and guards the length of the floor,” said Christ Chapel boys coach Clinton Simmons. He has “good size, physical tools, defensive attributes and the ability to make plays for himself and others.”
He’s also tough. During the St. James Winter League, Byron had five teeth dislodged after taking a change. A week later, he was back on the court.
The 5-3 Zaria is her team’s floor leader. She averages eight assists a game and displays a court savvy that ignites the Lions’ up-tempo offense.