Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Hopewell Falls To Clover Hill At Buzzer
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 3, 2014, 22:24

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE Hopewell's junior varsity team's hopes of winning the second-place game seemed to come crashing down at the very moment Clover Hill's Mike Pegram's floater in the lane collided with hardwood. The basket, Pegram's first field goal of the game, gave the Cavaliers a five-point lead with a little over two minutes left in regulation.

Nearly a minute passed with no baskets on either side. Just 1:21 remaining and a five-point deficit. Yet, the Blue Devils never relented even after having to play the final 3:08 of regulation without David Gant or Terrance Coleman.

Simeon Pierce, the Blue Devils' spark-plug off the bench, helped awaken a Hopewell team which had grown stale over the previous minute. It was Pierce's drive through the lane to draw a foul which prompted an unlikely chain of events.

Pierce made just one of his two free throws, but quickly picked the pocket of the Clover Hill player who came down with the rebound before deftly handing a pass over to Marquise Smith for the basket plus a foul. Smith's free throw cut the deficit to just one-point, 57-56, with 1:06 remaining.

Then, Daryl Johnson corralled an errant pass near mid-court and quickly fired a pass up the floor to a racing Ronnie Monroe who finished the transition lay-up to give the Blue Devils the lead. One Monroe free throw nearly 40 seconds later gave Hopewell a 59-57 lead with just 13 seconds remaining.

Clover Hill hurried up the court and quickly swung a pass baseline. Jeremiah Coward was immediately swarmed by Hopewell defenders. But he found a crease and passed the ball to Demitrius Bell right beyond the 3-point line and he fired, finding nothing but nylon, giving the Cavaliers a dramatic 60-59 victory.

"It was tough, man. It was kind of a funky game that was going back and forth," Hopewell head coach David Bailey said after the tough loss. "It was chippy, but guys battled back. I was just telling them that whenever there's time left on the clock, we have to keep fighting ... that call was controversial but what are you going to do. They played their hearts out."

And while it sure looked and sounded like Bell had not yet released the basketball before the buzzer sounded, there is nothing that can be done. The call was final and so is the loss.

However, what isn't final is the way Bailey's squad regrouped and remained persistent even while staring down a deficit with a small amount of time remaining. It's the type of effort which can speed up a learning curve and propel a team toward maturity and success late in the year.

Bailey may have still been upset about the way the game ended, he could not hide his delight in the play of Pierce who jump-started the Blue Devils for the second consecutive game.

"It was a whole team effort," Bailey said of his 11-point performance. "We had guys foul out, another one hurt his finger, it was tough. But he really helped us out there."

Although Bailey was referring to the game, he could have been discussing the season as a whole.

While the Blue Devils ultimately lost, the tournament as a whole provided a bright spot for his team. Take Gant's performance over the two days for instance. The forward provided a steadying presence inside the paint for Hopewell while also showcasing an ability to be a finisher around the rim.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Gant's 21 points on the game was a team-high even after being relegated to the bench for a lot of the game due to foul trouble. His type of effort does not even surprise Hopewell's leading man.

"He'll take the ball after a rebound and run the floor like Charles Barkley and lay it up," Bailey said of Gant.

Yet, Gant is not the only one who impressed on the night.

The Blue Devils also have a play-making floor general in Monroe to lead the team in hectic moments. While Monroe dropped in 7 points on the night, it's his defense which takes center stage.

Monroe made headlines on the gridiron for his penchant to intercept opposing signal-callers and it's that same type of ability he takes to the hardwood.

"He's a little guy, but his heart is humongous," Bailey said. "He plays hard and he's the leader of our team. We go as he goes. He's our engine. Guys follow him and I can't say enough about him."

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
But Bailey could also not say enough about his team. It's a team that is young with only two players with previous experience on the roster and one which is gaining the Hopewell mentality of never giving up.

It's a mindset usually hardened by tough losses and close wins, just like against Clover Hill, giving Bailey all the more reason to be hopeful of the future.

"The biggest thing is guys sometimes can lose focus," Bailey said. "We have 15 guys, different personalities and we just want them to seize the moment. Hopefully we can build on that in the future, look at it knowing that one should have been ours, and make sure to get the next one."

Winning programs become hardened by losing tough games. Teams can either sink further into a hole or climb above the futility. With talented players lining its roster, a gradual improvement is likely to follow Hopewell through the course of their season.

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