Hopewell's Defense Halts Warriors In Victory
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 2, 2014, 21:09
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — After 24 minutes of basketball, Hopewell's junior varsity team found themselves with a 12-point lead over Matoaca in the junior varsity tournament. However, the Warriors would not roll over.
In their earlier game, Matoaca had fallen in an overtime clash with L.C. Bird and did not want to add another number to the right-side of their won-loss column against the Blue Devils. The Warriors responded with a 6-0 run spanning 1:03 of game-action to cut the Hopewell lead to six, 68-62.
The Warriors fans grew louder, sensing their team would eventually take over the game. However, the Blue Devils' Marquise Smith had an answer to Matoaca's run. Smith received a bounce pass on the left block, quickly pivoted and spun his way to the right block, drained the shot and drew the foul.
His fist pump and subsequent yell awakened the Blue Devils' bench as they stood on their feet, cheering on their teammates during the decisive 10-0 run in the fourth quarter, capturing a 80-71 victory and earning a spot in the second-place game against Clover Hill.
"We came out with intensity after that first loss against L.C. Bird. They were hungry," head coach Feridon Terry said after the game. "They wanted to play. They wanted to create turnovers and limit their own. They just wanted it more."
The intensity was evident from the opening tip as the Blue Devils wasted little time in taking the attack to the Warriors and establishing an inside, outside presence with a 13-2 run in the first 3:40 of game-action.
Just 10 seconds into the game, Hopewell's Terrance Coleman found a crease into the paint and finished off a lay-up. The basket was followed up with two inside moves from forward David Gant — one of which a move of brutality as he finished with two defenders draped around him.
But once Matoaca decided to collapse on Gant whenever he received a pass in the post, it opened up the outside shot as Daryl Johnson nailed two 3-pointers in the first quarter, two of the six the Blue Devils made in the first half.
Yet, the offensive possessions would not have opened up without the intense pressure on the defensive end.
The Blue Devils did not force turnovers in the full-court press, but in the half-court sets, utilizing deft hand positioning to pick the Warriors' pockets for a total of 25 turnovers on the night.
"Sticking the hands out, spreading the floor and running the floor," Terry said of his team's philosophy. "When we play like that, it's our game. We want to get into transition and if we can't get the lay-up, we pull back."
More often than not, Hopewell executed whatever they wanted to on offense. Whether it was the outside shot, dribble-drives to the basket or battling in the low-post, the Blue Devils had the extra energy to win the one-on-one battles.
However, Coleman's shooting display from the outside — he nailed two 3-pointers — and ability to go coast-to-coast stole the show in the second half of action.
With Matoaca focusing on stopping entry passes to Gant in the blocks, Hopewell needed someone to step up and Coleman did just that for Terry's squad. Coleman dropped in 16 points, 11 of them coming in the second-half of play.
"He had set the tone in the locker room," Terry said. "He had said that he was going to go out there and play hard and that's exactly what he did. He ran the floor well, played lock-down defense and helped us get the win."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
However, Coleman was not the only player who stepped up for Hopewell.
Ronnie Monroe dropped in 10 points while orchestrating the offense throughout the game and Simeon Pierce helped change momentum with four points late in the first half as Matoaca attempted to close the deficit.
Yet, none played better than Gant as the forward dropped in a game-high of 26 points.
"He's one of a kind," Terry said of the forward. "He likes to run the floor and he doesn't mind taking the contact. He's going to finish and he looks for the and-one."
If Gant can replicate his performance against an undersized Clover Hill squad and his teammates maintain their intensity, Hopewell is likely to end the tournament in second-place, riding high with confidence as the season enters its stretch run.