Hopewell Falters Down Stretch In Dinwiddie
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 10, 2014, 22:44
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
DINWIDDIE — Just five minutes into the game, Hopewell faced a 12-0 deficit to the Generals while turning the ball over five times in the process, displaying little fluidity on offense nor cohesiveness on defense. It was the type of hole teams rarely find themselves climbing out of, but following a timeout, the Blue Devils became energized.
The defense which could not keep the Generals' guards in front of them stiffened while the offense utilized back-cuts to the basket with perfection, scoring easy buckets around the hoop. Hopewell eventually overcame the early deficit to take the lead late into the fourth quarter.
However, during the game's decisive last two minutes, Dinwiddie's Joe Lewis, who scored a game-high 16 points, was too much to handle for a Hopewell squad which saw a seven-point lead disintegrate into a 57-55 road loss.
"We came out flat. The routine was different. Getting off the bus, getting dressed and coming out to the court is not what we normally do," Blue Devils' head coach Robbie St. John said alluding to the cancellation of the junior varsity game scheduled to be played before them. "I don't know. I can't explain it. I just know we were doing some things that just didn't make a whole lot of sense."
Yet, St. John saw his team immediately turn the tide around to end the half before completely dominating in the third quarter behind the play of Darrell Taylor.
The 6-foot-4 forward has struggled with foul trouble all season, but his impact in the third quarter helped spur a 14-to-2 Blue Devils' (5-7) run. Daniel Saunders started the run with a patented base-line jumper off a feed from Isaiah Fernandez for two his team-high 15 points before Taylor received a bounce pass in the blocks and scored on the next possession.
Then, after a Deonte Jones runner in the paint went through nylon, Taylor rejected Lewis in the paint, leading to another Jones bucket. But the forward was not done. Taylor rejected another Dinwiddie (6-5) player leading to a Tabyus Taylor bucket, giving Hopewell their biggest lead of the game, 37-30, with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
"Darrell can take over any game he plays in," St. John said of Taylor's 9-point effort. "He just needs to play with that confidence and we've been seeing it. We got a little glimpse of it tonight."
Yet, without the play by Jones in the second-half, Taylor's third quarter brilliance would have gone to waste.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
After being held scoreless during the game's first 16 minutes, Jones erupted in the second half of play. The sophomore dropped in 10 points, including finishing an and-one during the Blue Devils' extended run.
It was a stark contrast to the daze Jones played with in the first half as he struggled on defense, allowing the Generals' Jourdon Winfield to slide past him at will en route to 12 points on the night, and looked inept on offense.
"Defensively he was having some troubles and that kind of translated into the other end and then he got into foul trouble," St. John said of the sophomore guard. "He had a better second half."
But St. John also recognized how important the minutes he received from his bench were on a night one or two possessions would have changed the outcome.
Both Antoine Ford and Brandon Young defended effectively as part of the 2-3 zone and harassed the Generals into three turnovers with smart half-court traps during their stint on the court together. Meanwhile, Johnnie Harrison also changed momentum with his defense, penchant for steals and leaping ability to soar for big rebounds en route to a 4-point night.
"It's not going to show in the stat-sheet, but Johnnie Harrison stepped up pretty big for us in the minutes he gave us off the bench," St. John said. "Brandon Young and Antoine came in, I had them at 1 and 2, they trapped well, didn't foul and they were responsible for that chip away."
And it was their play which allowed the Blue Devils to be in position to ice the game with 25.3 seconds left and a 55-54 lead.
Tabyus Taylor received the ball at the top of the key and used a screen from Malik Monds as he went left down the lane for a runner which clanked off iron. The rebound fell into Monds' hands as he was fouled, but the forward missed the front-end of the 1-and-1, giving the ball to the Generals for the eventual winning free throws.
"The last play was a designed penetration so Tabyus' man came off of him and let him go to the rim," St. John said. "He's been able to do it a lot ... his hands are better than some of our other options and I thought with him being a senior, it's something he can handle."
While shots sometimes don't fall — it's the nature of the game — Hopewell is going through an alarming trend of not finishing contests. Instead of keeping the pressure on their opposition, they allow their opponent to sneak back into the game, hurting them in the won-loss column.
Yet, the Blue Devils have also shown a mental resolve not seen earlier this season with an unwavering ability to climb out of deficits and continue to fight until time expires, showing the team is not far away from turning it around.
"They're tired of losing," St. John said of his players. "These are kids who are not used to losing and they're tired of it ... we spotted them a 12-point lead then decided to play ... we just have to learn to finish ball games."
Once Hopewell rediscovers the winning mentality to finish games and opponents, the wins will start to come. But with a difficult Conference 26 tournament closing in on the horizon, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.