Matoaca's Late Bucket Sinks Hopewell
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 14, 2014, 22:29
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTERFIELD — Hopewell's Deonte Jones received the bounce-pass from Isaiah Fernandez and quickly looked in front of him as he stared down the basket. Without hesitation, the sophomore rose and released a high-arching 3-pointer which found nothing but nylon.
The scoreboard immediately lit up, registering the Hopewell basket and showed a 60-54 advantage with just 62 seconds remaining. While it seemed like the dagger for the Blue Devils in a road win, it was just the start of an unfortunate chain of events.
Matoaca's Trevion Armstrong answered the Jones' three-ball by making two free throws with 44 seconds remaining. The Warriors then entered foul mode and zeroed in on Tabyus Taylor. Taylor made just one of two free throws, but a Matoaca turnover then put Darrell Taylor on the line.
The junior forward clanked both attempts off the back-iron leading to a Warriors' 3-pointer, cutting the deficit to just two, 61-59, with 16 seconds remaining. Fernandez then inbounded the ball to Taylor who was immediately fouled.
The senior forward had made 10 of his previous 12 free throws entering the game, but he also missed both as the basketball was rebounded by Matoaca's Devin Morgan.
The Warriors leading scorer entering play at 19.9 points per contest raced up the court and drove the lane as Antoine Ford moved to the middle where contact was made on the shot. Morgan's floater found nylon and the whistle blew — a blocking foul. Morgan sank the free-throw, giving the Warriors a one-point lead with six seconds on the clock.
Instead of calling a timeout and allowing Matoaca to set-up a defense, Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John called for an immediate inbounds. Taylor received the ball and dribbled feverishly up the court and fired up a long two-pointer. The ball banged off the front-iron, bounced into the air and connected with hardwood as the final buzzer sounded on a 62-61 loss.
"I thought we had pretty good rotation, our sophomore stepped in and it's called a charge," St. John explained. "Hits the free-throw, it's big. I probably should have called a timeout and set something up."
It was the opposite strategy St. John used just two games ago when facing a two-point deficit with just over a second remaining. Yet, the result remained the same for a Hopewell (6-8) squad still searching for answers.
The Blue Devils responded to their loss against Dinwiddie with a win versus Armstrong, a team ranked No. 5 in the 3A weekly polls by Virginia Preps. But it's even more puzzling when considering for much of the game, Hopewell was executing well in almost every facet with key players stepping up when it was needed.
Earlier this season, Hopewell was only as successful as Daniel Saunders was. Yet, against Matoaca, Saunders finished the game with just 8 points, but Hopewell still had the game in hand because of the performances of others.
Ford entered the game and logged key minutes on the defensive end, helping to restrict Morgan's offensive output for Matoaca (7-5). Brandon Young also contributed in limited minutes, even hitting a long two-pointer off a screen early in the fourth quarter to extend the Blue Devils to a 5-0 run.
"We're getting good production," St. John said of his team. "But production only gets you close games. We got to have people who are going to step up and win us games and we don't. They have to turn around and play."
However, instead of playing to their capabilities, the Blue Devils faltered down the stretch. While the coaching staff reminded them to chase the Warriors off the the 3-point line and said not to foul — the two things which would allow them back into the game — the Blue Devils could not execute.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Yet, perhaps the most glaring reason deficiency for the Blue Devils came from the foul line. Hopewell made just 10-of-22 attempts, including 1-of-6 in the final 40 seconds. In their previous three games, Hopewell had connected on 40-of-57 attempts for a 70 percent success rate.
"We couldn't buy one," St. John said. "Both those guys have been shooting free throws well of late, so it comes back to bite you. Lay-ups and free throws ... We didn't get that done."
But one player whose performance stood out for getting the job done, albeit in the losing cause was Jones. The sophomore forward nailed five 3-pointers en route a 19-point scoring effort for his fifth-straight double-digit scoring game.
Tabyus Taylor also dropped in a double-digit performance with 17 points — his first effort of the kind in two games. Darrell Taylor added 6 points while Malik Monds tallied 5 points himself, although none of it helped stave off another late-game collapse.
"I don't know," St. John said of his team's late-game mentality. "We made some very easy decisions difficult on ourselves. I don't know."
Through 14 games, Hopewell is a puzzling squad for even its head coach after experiencing highs of defeating Mountain Creek and Armstrong and the lows of blowing late-game leads.
Whether this team is closer to the one who can beat the very best or the one who struggles down the stretch will determine where they end up in mid February.