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

Royals Suffer Emotional Let-Down, Fall To Varina
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 28, 2013, 22:45

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
FORT LEE Just a little under 18 hours had passed from the final buzzer of Prince George's close loss to Petersburg and the tip-off for their third-place game against Varina. However, those 1,080 minutes made a world of a difference for a Royals squad which looked lost all afternoon long.

While Prince George answered every Petersburg run one night earlier, playing perhaps their best game of basketball all season as they eyed their second-straight win over the Crimson Wave, it was Varina who had the answers. It took just 3:21 of game-action for the Blue Devils to gain a 9-0 lead.

To make matter worse, the Royals had turned the ball over on five of their first seven possessions, committing 10 turnovers in just the first quarter alone. And while Savonte Chappell and Quincy Cunningham followed a timeout with two baskets, Varina repaid the Royals with a 6-0 run of their own.

It was that kind of game for Prince George. Any slight momentum gained was immediately snuffed out by the physical and rugged Blue Devils who took the attack to the Royals in a 64-48 victory.

"That was a totally different team than the one you saw 24 hours or so ago," Prince George head coach Travis Carr said following the loss. "I'm not sure if they were mentally ready to go and I had warned them about that. I always worry about tournament games because on the last day, if you aren't playing for first-place, then what are you playing for?"

The answer would be pride.

However, it became clear over the 32 minutes of action, the Royals (3-7) were still in a haze, thinking back to the what ifs from the night before. The team just went through the motions, becoming robotic in their movements.

Dribble up the court, swing the ball to the left and the right against Varina's (3-5) 2-3 zone. Mental lapses would occur with questionable decision-making on cross court passes, leading to easy scoring chances.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

And yet, even with everything going wrong, Prince George found themselves trailing Varina by a 20-10 score. This is a Royals' squad who had overcome a seven-point deficit against Petersburg and had defeated them once, in addition to another top 10 ranked school in Deep Creek.

But then came the second quarter, a dismal one reminiscent of the eight minutes which cost the Royals a game to Dinwiddie just one week ago. Prince George tallied just four points in the quarter while Varina dropped in 14, taking a 20-point lead into the locker room.

"It starts with coming out of the locker room and the loss last night, as you can see, really had an effect on us today," Carr said bluntly.

But other factors also came into the play besides the mindset of the players.

Early foul trouble doomed any chance of a Royals comeback in the second-quarter when both Savonte Chappell and Cory Hill had to leave the game with three fouls a piece. Chappell and Hill are critical pieces to a Royals' offense which stresses the inside-out game.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Chappell had just come off a 17-point, 14-rebound effort against Petersburg after entering the tournament as the Royals' leading scorer at 14 points per game. Meanwhile, Hill's ability to blast in the three ball and quick cross-overs to create penetration had him as the second-leading scorer at 11 points per contest.

Yet, the two players combined for 9 points total with limited playing time.

"Savonte went out and Cory went out with him early," Carr said. "I'm not so sure the whistle was blown in our favor a lot that game. The fouls were 16-to-4 at one point ... not having them hurt us."

But it would be counter-productive to use the third-place game as a barometer of how successful the Royals were during the Fort Lee Holiday Tournament.

Prince George played some of their best basketball of the season over the tournament's first two days, showcasing the type of talent they have. With a dominant inside presence in Chappell, outside shooting of Hill and Cunningham, coupled with the emerging presence of All-Tournament team member Brian Fullman, the Royals are on the rise.

"Right now we are on a roller coaster," Carr said. "We have big wins followed by losses like this. Hopefully we learn from this, regather ourselves during the break, fine-tune some of our parts and move on."

And during the self-evaluation period, the Royals will look to discover consistency, a component which has been lacking this season and the only hinderance this team faces on the road to piling up wins.

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