Royals Dominate Glass In Opening Round Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 26, 2013, 21:19
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
FORT LEE — Travis Carr's first eight games as head coach have not gone the way he expected. His Prince George squad dropped its first four games before capturing their first win of the season. They have since celebrated the high of earning their first victory over Petersburg in 10 years and found disappointment in a loss to Dinwiddie after a dismal third quarter.
Entering the Fort Lee Holiday Tournament, it was anyone's guess as to what Royals squad would show up on the court. Yet, through the last few games, they have started to gain the look of a squad ready to roll.
The consistency, which had been lacking, is now being matched by sheer effort. And following Holiday festivities, Prince George's players were not in the giving mood as their red-laced, green team-shoes seemed to indicate.
It was the Royals who jumped on opening-round opponent Life Christian Academy early, showcasing their athleticism and brute force by getting to the loose balls and playing dominating defense. Even with a sloppy start to the game — the Royals committed eight turnovers in the first quarter — Prince George held a 14-3 lead after eight minutes, an advantage they never lost, defeating the Eagles, 67-37.
"It begins with the red shoelaces," Carr said with a laugh after the win. "I told the team that it's a three-step process over three days and you can't look at the overall picture. You have to take it one game at a time. The first one is most important because if you get knocked out, the other two don't matter because you are in the loser's bracket. They wanted to make a statement with their effort, come out strong, wrap this game up and move on."
One didn't need to watch more than a few minutes to realize the Royals (3-6) were business-first in their attitude and game-plan.
Instead of watching shots clank off iron and be corralled by Eagles' (5-6) players, Prince George crashed the boards on every play. In the first quarter alone, the Royals had eight second-chance opportunities, but many of them went to waste as points came at a premium.
However, it all changed in a 22-point second quarter explosion.
Prince George's ball-movement improved, swinging it around the perimeter and working bounce-passes into the post area where Savonte Chappell made a permanent residence. The Royals' leading scorer entering the game at 14 points per contest along with 12 boards per game, tallied just four points in the quarter, but it was the constant double-teams he faced which opened the floor.
As the Eagles' defense collapsed on Chappell, the sophomore belied his age with deft passes out of the post to perimeter players like Quincy Cunningham who nailed a 3-pointer and tallied seven points in the period en route to a 12-point performance.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Yet, Cunningham was not the only benefactor on the night.
Shonquez Henry helped stretch the defense by nailing two 3-pointers en route to a 8-point night while Mikale Harris benefited in the post as he dropped in 4 points on the game. Fellow forward Brian Fullman scored 6 points of his own while second-leading scorer Cory Hill scored just 4 points.
Even 6-foot-9 sophomore John Sally showed off deft skills in the post, scoring 6 points of his own, showcasing how balanced the Royals' offense can be with a dangerous inside, out game.
"The best combination you can have is an inside, outside game where you have guards you have to account for on the outside, but you also have guys you have to double-team on the inside," Carr said of the match-up problems his team causes. "Once we figure out how to play in and out, we could be an unstoppable force."
However, waiting in the path of Carr's Royals is a team his squad is all too familiar with after earning 68-67 victory over them exactly two weeks ago. Petersburg has won the Fort Lee Holiday Tournament seven consecutive years in a row, but the Royals have shown the ability to defeat them.
Also going in Prince George's favor?
The team is beginning to gel as the rotation has been settled. Players now know their roles and execute their jobs with precision, setting the Royals up to have success each night.
"We are finding team chemistry," Carr said. "We are finding the right guys to put on the floor and things are starting to gel on and off the court even. It finally looks like we put things together and hopefully we can go out there and win this thing."
Like a bull infuriated by the color red, the rose-colored laces may have brought added intensity to the Royals' play. Step one completed. Two more remain with one huge mountain to climb over in the seven-time defending champion Crimson Wave.