Warriors Pull Away From Wave
By DAVID BREIDENBACH, Correspondent
Feb 11, 2013, 12:12
Matoaca junior Khalil Coleman (5) looks for an outlet as two Petersburg players defend on Friday at Hopewell’s Leadbetter Gymnasium. The Warriors prevailed in the regular-season playoff, claiming the top seed in the Central District tournament with a 66-47 victory (photo by David Breidenbach).
HOPEWELL – Last year, Matoaca High School boys basketball coach Charles Payton decided his team would benefit more from sacrificing the season to gain some much-needed experience. He knew it was a gamble, but he also knew he had good players who only needed court time to become great players.
The gamble had its price.
The Warriors won only five games last season, although five of their losses came in overtime battles. The overall record wasn’t what most coaches are looking for.
But the dividends from that sacrifice showed up Friday night at Leadbetter Gymnasium in Hopewell when the upstart squad knocked off Petersburg for the third time in three meetings this season.
Matoaca’s 66-47 victory in the regular-season playoff broke its tie with Petersburg atop the Central District standings, thereby earning the team the top seed in this week’s district tournament and next week’s Central Region bracket.
With the win Matoaca raised its record to 14-7, 11-3 in district play. Petersburg fell to 14-7 and 10-4. While the Wave and the Warriors share the regular-season title, it’s the first time in 11 years that Matoaca earned a top seed.
Matoaca sophomore Devin Morgan (center) dribbles as Petersburg’s Frankie Barksdale (20) and Gevon Arrington (2) defend on Friday at Hopewell’s Leadbetter Gymnasium (photo by David Breidenbach).
“Last year, we kind of took our lumps starting two freshmen and two sophomores,” Payton said. “We thought if we could take the beating and hold on, hopefully it would pay off for us in the future.”
The season isn’t over yet, but the run-away victory over the Crimson Wave was the first installment of what the Warriors hope will be a huge pay off.
“A lot of people say you can’t beat a team three times, but we felt if we put our best team out there we can beat anyone,” said Matoaca sophomore Devin Morgan. “It worked tonight and we came out on top as the number one team in the district.”
But the game didn’t start off as a rout.
In fact, it took almost two minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard. After several missed shot attempts by both teams, Khalil Coleman broke the ice for Matoaca when he hit a jumper in the lane at the 6:16 mark. Resean Bolton followed up with another basket a few seconds later to give the Warriors a four-point edge.
It didn’t last long, and the rest of the first half played out in back-and-forth style. The Crimson Wave grabbed a four-point lead at the end of the quarter, 15-11, with Gevon Arrington leading the way with five points. Morgan’s four points were tops for Matoaca.
The second quarter was even tighter. Petersburg’s Adonis James had four points for the Crimson Wave and five other players chimed in with two each. Bolton scored four for the Warriors as they closed to gap to two points, 29-27.
During the break, Payton told his team they needed to step up on defense. They were letting Petersburg drive into the lane and get too many second-chance baskets.
“I thought defensively we weren’t doing a good job of stopping penetration. I told them we had to do a better job of getting in front of those players and taking a few charges,” Payton said. “This team has had a lot of defensive stands in the fourth quarter. I thought we played good defense in the last two quarters tonight.”
Morgan was the key player in more ways than one. First, he led all scorers with 17 points. But when Petersburg clamped down on him with a box-and-one defensive plan that isolated Morgan, he turned into an even bigger problem. Payton told Morgan to start setting screens for his teammates, and with Morgan locked up in that role, the Warriors turned to Coleman to start handling the ball.
“When they started guarding Devin, that would leave me open for some opportunities,” Coleman said. “When I had the ball, I tried to get it into B.J. [Allen] and [Bolton]. I had to feed the guys who were doing all the work.”
Coleman knew exactly what to do with the ball. He looked for his big men under the basket. And when they talk about big men in the Central District, there are few whose size ranks close to Allen. The 6-6, 280-pound center is a significant load around the hoop.
His height gives him a natural rebounding advantage, his girth makes it very hard to stop him from getting to the basket and he has a great feel for the game in the post.
At this point in the game, Matoaca’s defense started to shine.
They stopped Petersburg often for a brief flurry as they went on a 14-3 run which gave them a 10-point lead. Bolton started the run when he popped a trey to give Matoaca a 32-31 lead at the 6:29 mark.
After Matoaca stretched the lead to 34-31 on a basket in the lane, Morgan put some distance between the teams with a pair of treys in consecutive possessions. His first 3 was from the right side of the arc and the second was a long-range bomb to make the lead 41-31 with 4:58 left in the third.
“We turned the ball over and that led to some easy baskets for them,” said Petersburg coach Rick Hite. “And you cannot give easy baskets to that team. When you get easy baskets, the basket starts to look like an ocean and everything you throw up starts going in.”
At that point, Hite called a timeout to try to settle down his players. But the brief stoppage didn’t have much effect on Matoaca’s shooters as Rashard Lewis nailed a 3 out of the break to push the lead to 13 points.
Adonis James put an end to the Warriors run with a 3-pointer, but the big damage in the game was done. Petersburg managed to close the lead to six points, but never really threatened Matoaca down the stretch. Arrington led Petersburg with 10 points and was the only player in double figures for the Crimson Wave.
Matoaca’s defense came through in the final two quarters, holding Petersburg to 11 points in the third and a measly seven in the final period. Meanwhile, the Warriors torched the nets for 19 and 20 points in the third and fourth, respectively.
“The team started all the way back in spring with open gyms, then summer league,” Payton said. “They showed up every time, and put in the work, and it has all paid off.”