Flying High

Birds of a Feather: Tompkins’ Bieniemy and Washington are VYPE Co-MVPs

Tompkins senior CJ Washington Vype

While Tompkins’ CJ Washington and Jamal Bieniemy aren’t biological twins, they have a basketball telepathy that dates back to the fourth grade.

The VYPE co-MVPs have been backcourt mates since playing for the RYTES Warriors in elementary school, where they were coached by teammate Eden Holt’s dad, Lamar Holt.

From Morton Ranch Junior High, the pair transferred to Tompkins to lay the foundation for a new program.

The past four years, the pair has been the cornerstone of the Tompkins Falcons, which found themselves on the state’s biggest stage. They took the five-year-old school on a ride they never could have imagined.

But they did.

“We’ve been dreaming about this since we were little kids,” CJ Washington said of reaching the state finals. “This journey has really been special for us.”

Bieniemy has signed with Oklahoma, while Washington will sign after the season.

Washington and Bieniemy both averaged 16 points per game on the season as the best backcourt in the city.

Having that near-decade of history helped, knowing where each other were on the court and knowing who would take over a game and when.

“It will be weird after we play our final game,” Bieniemy said. “That’s why we’ve been going so hard. We don’t want it to end. I know we will go our separate ways in college, but I know when we are home we will get some runs in together. We love to push each other.”

Entering the ninth grade, Washington was ranked by some recruiting services as the No. 1 player in the state. That can get in your head sometimes. Washington’s game fluctuated, but he has put in together as a senior.

“I had to play these guys on varsity as freshman,” coach Bobby Sanders said. “They didn’t really have any older guys to show them how to work, so we had some growing pains.

“Entering this year, CJ was on a mission. He just got in great shape. We trained hard in the preseason running miles. I mean a lot of miles. Once he was in shape, no one can stop him getting to the goal. He’s had a transformation.”

“I was just in my head the past few years,” Washington said. “Coach kept reminding me that I was unstoppable, and I just kept that in my head this season.”

Bieniemy’s game also added a few wrinkles as a senior.

“He worked so hard on his shot and it’s been a game-changer,” Sanders said. “With that came great confidence. As a freshman, he would have never taken that three-pointer to win the state semifinal. We were in the huddle and he said, ‘I’m gonna knock this down coach.’ I thought, okay.”

While the MVP is an individual award that is usually given to the best player on the best team, this year is different.

You can’t mention one without the other when it comes to Bieniemy and Washington.

It’s been like that for nearly a decade.

This article appears in the March Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy at any one of our locations next week! 

 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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