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

Foul Trouble Dooms Hopewell In Rematch
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 7, 2014, 22:54

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL After a seven-point loss to Petersburg in the Fort Lee Tournament just 10 days ago, the Blue Devils' players immediately looked toward their schedule, circled and underlined their next scheduled game. It was not because they wanted to get back on the court, although that is part of it, and it's not because they had lost their previous game, yet that too is part of the reason.

They did so because their opponent was the same Crimson Wave squad which defeated them to win an eighth-straight Fort Lee Tournament title and they wanted revenge.

And it was that type of tension which was felt inside the gym as both teams took to Bill Littlepage court for their second match-up of the season. As the lineups were introduced over the public address system, the crowd continued to file in as Hopewell's band belted out tunes. It was the type of atmosphere reserved for a college game, yet this was a high school gym filled to the core for a rematch between two bitter rivals.

Over the course of the game's first 13 minutes, it sure seemed as Round II would live up to the hype after a back-and-forth affair in their previous match-up. Both teams traded buckets with ease, pushed the pace and attempted to dictate the action to the tune of 13 lead changes in all.

But then, the Crimson Wave took over.

Foul trouble halted any fluidity the Hopewell offense had going and disrupted the communication on the defensive end as Petersburg abruptly went on a 15-to-6 run to end the half. Hopewell would not get any closer than five points the rest of the way in a disappointing 86-63 loss.

"I don't think they made that run until four out of my five starters were sitting on the bench with two fouls," Blue Devils head coach Robbie St. John said after the game. "While the guys that came off the bench helped, we weren't able to put the rotations in that we wanted to."

And the inability to play the way they wanted hindered any chance of Hopewell (5-7) grabbing momentum and defeating a team which has become a personal tormentor.

For all of Petersburg's (10-2) talent, there was a Blue Devils team tied at 28-28 halfway through a second quarter. The Crimson Wave were suffocated from Hopewell's physical man-to-man defense, unable to get the shots they wanted nor go on elongated runs.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

But then, the headiness of the Crimson Wave team showed itself on the scoresheet as they forced the Blue Devils into foul trouble. Not only did it disrupt the tough defense of Hopewell, Petersburg turned those chances into points, connecting on 26-of-33 free-throws.

"Free throws play a large role in every basketball game and that's one of those stats you can't overlook," Crimson Wave head coach Rick Hite said. "I tell the guys step up to the line and they want to make them."

Meanwhile, Hopewell struggled to get to the foul line, attempting just five shots in what would be the decisive first half of action. Yet, by the end of the night, Hopewell had connected on 15-of-23 free-throws, but it was too late.

Each time Hopewell gathered momentum, it was broken up by a Petersburg squad determined to win the game. Blue Devils' guard Deonte Jones finished two consecutive and-one opportunities for six of his 14 points while Tabyus Taylor followed with a basket for his own, cutting the Petersburg lead to 54-49 late in the third quarter.

The Crimson Wave responded with a 12-2 run, taking complete control of the game and pinning Hopewell to the ropes after a Kaimonne Douglas 3-pointer pushed the lead to 15 points. It was that type of game for a Hopewell squad which struggled to keep up with the Crimson Wave.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

"We get Petersburg's best game and I don't think we've come close to playing ours against them," St. John said. "We just had some mental lapses on things that we practiced extensively and should have been able to exploit."

Yet, it was just another missed opportunity for a Blue Devils program which has gone just 11-44 against Petersburg since the 2004 season.

The Blue Devils finished the game with 73 points, nine above their season average, and had four different players finish in double-figures in scoring led by Jones and Daniel Saunders' 14 points, Darrell Taylor's 13 points and Tabyus Taylor's 10 points.

But ultimately, late rotations on the defensive end led to fouls piling up and more minutes on the pine than hardwood, leaving Hopewell's back-ups in an unenviable spot against Conference 3A's No. 9 ranked team in the polls.

"We play a certain brand of ball, but when Petersburg steps on the floor we don't rise to that occasion," St. John said after his team's second loss to Petersburg. "I think that kind of swallowed them up."

The good news for Hopewell is seven games separate them from their next meeting with the Crimson Wave, leaving them with a chance to review their mistakes, hone their craft and attempt to send a message to their rivals a week before conference tournament action is set to begin.

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