Prince George Rolls Into Tournament Finals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 2, 2014, 21:11
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — As the Royals took to their home-court for their second game of the junior varsity tournament, a quiet confidence emanated from the way they took their warm-ups and prepared for the game.
It was business-first with a focus on the fundamentals needed to win the game. After all, this was a Royals squad entering the day with an unblemished record after one full month of basketball and doing so by impressive margins of victory.
And while every team goes through peaks and valleys during the course of a season, especially while playing two games in a six-hour span, it took just eight seconds for Prince George to foreshadow what was going to happen over the next 32 minutes.
Prince George won the opening tip and immediately found Karl Jones Jr. open. Receiving the chest-high pass, Jones Jr. never hesitated before firing his shot through the orange cylinder for three of his 10 points. Another 5:48 of game-action later and Prince George found themselves with a commanding 20-2 lead and having forced 11 Clover Hill turnovers in the first quarter alone.
It was just the start of an onslaught which continued throughout the game, even without Prince George's starters in the game for much of the second-half in a 74-53 win, setting up a showdown with L.C. Bird for the tournament title.
"Our scheme is to get the defense fired up, get some intensity with that," head coach Mayes Marks said after the game. "We've talked to them about that leading to the offense and its worked out well for us so far."
Marks was not just speaking about the game, but the season as a whole as he took their match-up against Clover Hill as a snap-shot of their season thus far.
It's a month highlighted by dominating performances, starting with a suffocating defense and timely offense. But it's also marked by a relentlessness to getting better each game, by putting in the work on both sides of the ball and battling for every possession.
It's the little things which have added up to a perfect season.
"We're undefeated," Marks said. "We're 7-0 and some of the teams are seeing us for a second time, so they are making adjustments to what we call our Royal defense, and we are trying to stay one step ahead of those guys."
However, it would be difficult to imagine the Royals seeing their seven-game head-start begin to slide in the opposite direction when they have a floor-general like Myles McNeil at their disposal.
McNeil never flinched in the face of attempted traps by the Clover Hill defense. He calmly dribbled or passed his way through them, barking out orders to his teammates, showing the leadership qualities of being a coach on the court.
Yet, that would tell only part of the story.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
While McNeil's mental capacity to run the offense and understand the nuances of the game set him apart, he also has an ability to score at will. In fact, whenever the Cavaliers attempted to make a mini-run, it was McNeil contorting his body in the lane for acrobatic finishes as he tallied a team-high 15 points on the afternoon.
"Absolutely vital to our success," Marks said. "We don't want to lose him to the varsity."
But there were other Royals' who stepped up during the course of the game and one player who dons the No. 41 stood out for his game's resemblance to Savonte Chappell of Prince George's varsity squad.
Su'Wayne Turner only dropped in 10 points in the victory, but it was how he tallied them which was impressive. Turner battled inside for each rebound, establishing a physical presence down-low, reminiscent of the type of buckets Chappell drops in.
The dirty-work compiled by Turner did not go unnoticed by Marks.
"He's only a ninth-grader," Marks said. "We have to look at his long arms ... He's got that knack for seeing the ball."
Although, perhaps most important was the balanced scoring-effort the Royals put together.
There was no selfishness being shown on the offensive side as the ball continually swung from player-to-player as they attempted to find the open man. It shows in the way Ascante Turner dropped in 9 points and David McDougal tallied 6 points of his own.
It's that type of effort which will lead the Royals to more success the rest of the season.
"We sometimes overpass," Marks said of his team. "My wife, who has been watching me coach for over 30 years, knows when our team is clicking because we are passing really well. It's fun to watch."
After earning a spot to play in the tournament finals, Prince George continues to have fun on the court. For the party to continue though, the Royals will need to remain focused and share the ball as they face another stiff test against L.C. Bird.