Prince George Falters After Early Deficit
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 3, 2013, 10:08
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — As the Royals' basketball team strolled onto the court, those in attendance immediately started buzzing with excitement. With each dribble of the basketball and completed warm-up exercise, the minutes ticked down until the highly anticipated basketball season tipped off.
The Royals' players visibly itched to get the season underway, showing no opening-game jitters during warm-ups. Instead, they stared at the basket and the task at hand with a business-like attitude. It seemed Prince George had won the game prior to opening-tip.
Then, they didn't.
The Manchester Lancers, winners of just two games all of last season, took the attack to Prince George, rattling the young squad with just four seniors on the roster. Turnovers became common-place, giving the Lancers the opportunity they needed to take a 12-0 lead just 3:09 into game-action.
Prince George's early-game troubles gave way to a furious late-game rally, but ultimately they could not overcome the dreadful start, dropping their home-opener, 63-50.
"It wasn't the way I envisioned the first quarter of the season-opener going," first-year head coach Travis Carr said. "We actually wanted to take the attack up on them. They broke our press led to a couple of lay-ups for them and all of a sudden, they were up 12-0."
But the Lancers (1-0) did not stop at 12-0.
While Prince George (0-1) would try multiple looks defensively, they could not find the right one to halt Manchester's ability to penetrate into the paint for easy passes or lay-ins, stretching the lead to 44-20 early in the third quarter.
Perhaps most alarming to Prince George's coaches was their team's inability to take advantage of their height. The Royals have 10 players listed at least 6-foot-3, giving them a distinct advantage against most, if not all, teams they will face this season.
Yet, it was the Lancers — not the Royals — who would gain multiple second-chance opportunities, leading to extra shots, more penetration, foul trouble for Prince George and a bigger lead.
Carr said his team continually switched defensive responsibilities throughout the game, utilizing different presses and schemes, but ultimately none could slow down Manchester, even after forcing 20 turnovers in 32 minutes of action.
"We tried the zone-press, we tried the 1-3-1 and tried going man," Carr explained after the loss. "They had pretty good guards who could get into the lane and dish it off, adding up to them getting those easy lay-ups."
But the penetration into the paint also led to piling up the free throw chances, giving Manchester the opportunity to gain larger leads without having to run an offensive play. In fact, the Lancers attempted 26 free throws, compared to the Royals' 21.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
However, with Manchester seemingly in cruise control as they readied to make their final run to end all hope for Prince George, the Royals showed off the mental resolve which should serve them well this season.
Trailing 50-32, the Royals' Chazz Jenkins knew he needed to make a play to not only reawaken the crowd, but his whole team. Jenkins waited until Manchester passed mid-court before making his move, swiping the ball and finishing off the fast-break with a windmill dunk which instantly brings to mind Briante Weber's dunk against Butler last year.
The dunk, much like Weber's did for VCU, brought the crowd to life and helped jump-start the comeback attempt for the Royals. Over the next 5:27 of game-action, Prince George would go on a 17-5 run, closing to within just eight points of Manchester. Even on the sidelines, Carr believed his team was going to overtake the Lancers.
"We aren't out of a game until the buzzer hits in the fourth quarter," Carr said of his team's mentality. "At halftime, we knew we had a whole other half to play ... we were going to make a comeback, the energy got back to the bench, to the building and the players on the court."
And a big reason why was the play of Prince George point guard Cory Hill.
After a scoreless first half of action, Hill exploded in the third quarter, dropping in 13 of the Royals' 20 points in the frame while draining four 3-pointers — one of which a step-back jumper while being fouled that was completed for a four-point play.
The sophomore guard would finish the game with a team-high 17 points, followed by Jenkins' 8 points and Savonte Chappell's 6 points. However, while their heroics fell short, it gives Carr a lesson to use as a learning point for his team during the course of the season.
"I commended them, during the comeback, was their hustle during that span," Carr said. "If we have hustle like that all game, we're going to make a run at people."
After dropping their season-opener while being out-worked for much of the game, the 5:27 span of dominance highlighted what this Royals' squad is capable of. However, whether they can play at that level for the full 32 minutes remains to be seen.