Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Crimson Wave Dispatch Royals In Thriller
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 27, 2013, 22:30

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
FORT LEE Exactly two weeks ago, Prince George defeated Petersburg by the tiniest of margins with a one-point home victory. Most dismissed it as blur on the radar for a Petersburg squad expected to contend each season. Yet, here were the Royals once again leading the Crimson Wave late in a game.

The seven-time defending Fort Lee Holiday Tournament Champions faced a 53-50 deficit with just 3:49 remaining in regulation. Surrounding the Crimson Wave players were not just the physical and rugged Royals, but the pressure from a pro-Petersburg crowd and the banners which place upon them the highest of expectations.

"We saw the wall," Petersburg head coach Rick Hite said of the seven consecutive Crimson Wave banners adorning the MacLoughlin Fitness Center wall. "We see the wall. There is a wall full of Petersburg."

It didn't take long to understand why this tournament has become dominated by Petersburg as Kaimonne' Douglas delivered a personal 7-0 run, giving the Crimson Wave a 57-53 edge.

But the mentally tough Royals didn't relent.

Forward Savonte Chappell held to just 4 points in the first half tallied 7 points in the fourth quarter alone, nailing two critical free throws to pull Prince George to within two points with a mere 38.3 seconds left.

"Good teams will withstand runs," Hite said of the Royals. "They withstood the run both times."

However, Petersburg regained a four-point advantage as Rasir Bolton hit two free throws after an intentional foul. Once again, the Royals answered. B.J. Knight drove into the paint, drew contact and was fouled, hitting both free throws.

Immediate pressure surrounded Gevon Arrington Petersburg's second-leading scorer on the game with 13 points on the ensuing inbounds, forcing the Crimson Wave guard into taking one too many steps.

"I told the guys that this game wasn't going to be given to us," Prince George head coach Travis Carr said following the game. "We have to go out there and take it."

Taking the word of advice from their coach, the Royals had taken the game from Petersburg and were in control of their own destiny. Trailing by two, 18 seconds left, an inbounds right under the basket.

However, as the Royals attempted to inbound the ball, no one was open. The internal clock of the inbounder going off in his head..five...four... Chappell was covered inside, Quincy Cunningham was shadowed...three...two...finally a pass over the defense beyond the arc was lofted.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Cunningham had a track on it, lining up the pass to grab one final possession for the Royals. But it never happened.

Arrington atoned for his previous miscue, eyeing the telegraphed pass, stealing it and running to the basket where he was fouled.

"That's the beauty of it," Hite said. "We had one of two options: complain and moan about the call or get the stop."

Two free throws through nylon later and the Crimson Wave all but sealed the win. Thirteen seconds later, the buzzer sounded as Petersburg captured a 63-59 victory, sending them to an eighth-straight championship game appearance.

Meanwhile, the Royals were left to complicate the 'what ifs' sports presents. What if the 14 turnovers Prince George committed in the first 16 minutes were limited to half?

What if the Royals could have adjusted on offense quicker, helping establish Chappell earlier in the game?

"I think we started the game too late," Carr acknowledged. "Regardless of what the score said in the first half, it felt like the lead was bigger than that ... they were controlling both aspects of the floor, offense and defense."

Then, came the second half run a 12-2 spurt started by a momentum-changing two-handed dunk by Cunningham for two of 9 points on the night. It was followed by two nifty cross-overs by Hill who tallied 10 points and finished off by Chappell's intimidating presence, scoring a team-high 17 points.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

"Savonte is one of our main focal points and we were trying to get the ball to him, but they played some great defense, so other guys had to step up."

Yet, that did not happen consistently enough for Carr's squad, leaving the usual suspects in Chappell, Cunningham and Hill to combat the balanced attack of Petersburg with a microwave player in Douglas who dropped in a game-high 21 points.

It all added up to disappointment for one side and relief on the other as the tremendous weight of expectations was matched by a winning-effort on the court, setting the stage for another old Central District rivalry showdown with Hopewell.

"Hopewell sees the wall and they want to change it," Hite explained. "That's the beauty of Hopewell, Petersburg games. We know what it's going to be. Hopewell knows what it's going to be and it should be a fun atmosphere tomorrow."

An atmosphere which will grow with anxiety with any lead taken by the Blue Devils as the Crimson Wave take aim at another title while Hopewell looks to capture their first since 2000.

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