Jones, Harrison Lead Blue Devils Past Colonials
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 20, 2013, 22:15
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After dropping four of their first five games this season, Robbie St. John's Blue Devils' squad was starting to feel the pressure. Hopewell had struggled to do the little things in every game this season, surrendering to the other team's ability to dictate the pace and style of play.
However, the Blue Devils eyed an opportunity Friday night.
Utilizing a full week of practice to work on the troublesome aspects of their game — most notably shot-selection — coupled with hosting the one-win Colonial Heights' squad, Hopewell answered the bell immediately.
As the referee threw the ball skyward, the Blue Devils' Malik Monds batted the ball forward toward Isaiah Fernandez. Hopewell's point guard did not hesitate in his decision-making, firing a bounce-pass to the charging Deonte Jones for the first points just four seconds into the game.
Just 7:27 of game-action later, Hopewell established a 20-6 lead, setting the stage for a dominating 86-39 victory on Coach Littlepage Court where the Blue Devils have earned both of their wins this season.
"This is one of the most difficult games because that is one of the hardest playing teams. They put in so much effort and you are always afraid that guys are going to overlook teams," St. John said after the win. "I thought our kids did a really good job of coming out and playing basketball and not worrying about anything else."
But while the 47-point victory is impressive on its own, it was even more promising for the Blue Devils (2-4) that it was done with leading-scorer Daniel Saunders plagued in foul trouble and unable to get into an offensive rhythm.
In addition to Saunders' problems, the Blue Devils also lost an interior presence as Monds also picked up quick fouls, leading to more time on the bench than on the hardwood.
And that's not all.
Hopewell's Tabyus Taylor — the team's leading rebounder at 7.5 per game — did not play for the first three quarters. Yet, the Blue Devils' bench picked up the slack, easing the concern of St. John on the sideline.
"The kids came off the bench and we didn't miss a beat," St. John said. "With our style of play, that's what's going to determine how successful we are. Our third point on the board was let's play four quarters, eight minutes each quarter because we haven't done that yet."
However, besides the foul trouble his team experienced while trying to trap the Colonials' (1-7) guards as they came up the court, it would be difficult for St. John to nitpick this victory.
Earlier this season, if Saunders tallied just 10 points in a game, the Blue Devils would have been hard-pressed to win the game. Yet, against Colonial Heights, other players stepped up with key contributions although none more so than Jones.
The sophomore guard has been a lethal weapon off the bench for St. John's squad early in the season, supplying instant offense whenever he steps on the court. But in making his first start of the season, Jones tallied a team and season-high of 24 points on the night, highlighting a dominant offensive display.
"Some of that is Deonte shooting, some of that is him moving well without the ball, but a lot of that is guys finding him and giving him good opportunities," St. John said. "Deonte does, in practice especially, if you overplay anything, somehow he's the one that makes a good cut and he finishes. There's a lot of extra passes that went into that as well."
It also helped to have Johnnie Harrison making an impact both defensively and offensively with his sheer hustle and determination to make plays. The sophomore forward entered the game averaging just 3.3 points per game, but playing extended minutes for the first time this season, Harrison dropped in 15 points.
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Yet, the points took a backseat to his ability to swipe the Colonials' pockets while also showcasing his hustle as he jumped out of bounds, saving a turnover and then scoring just five seconds later.
The high-energy effort was just what the Blue Devils needed to fuel the excitement on a team which had been tight of late due to the losing. But a 29-8 fourth quarter run brought the fun back into the game as 11 Blue Devils' players cracked the scoresheet in total.
"This place is special and there's an expectation of winning. When you start the season off the way we have, there's a lot of pressure on these kids," St. John said. "They're tired of losing. They expect to win ... I was really happy about seeing what I see in practice translate to the game."
After a full 32-minute effort with contributions from everyone on the roster, Hopewell's players have a reason to smile. They've found the winning formula. Now the only hurdle remaining is to show consistency, allowing them to continue putting numbers in the left side of of the won-loss column and not the right.