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

Second-Quarter Woes Down Hopewell
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 15, 2014, 22:14

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTER One night after suffering a late-game collapse, Hopewell traveled to Thomas Dale determined to get back on the winning track and after eight minutes of action, they were well on their way.

Although, the Blue Devils didn't dominate the first quarter of action, they led 17-12, they were in control, dictating the pace of play from the opening tip. Thomas Dale's offense could not get their transition game going as the Hopewell defense swarmed the lanes in perfect unison while offensively, they could not execute any better.

However, the good vibes would come to a halt in a second quarter which Hopewell suffered a rash of foul trouble, putting three of five starters on the bench and it showed with the results on the court. For as much as the Blue Devils experienced success in the first quarter, they found nothing but despair over the last 120 seconds of game-action in the second.

The Knights finished the half on a flurry, turning a three-point deficit into a seven-point advantage with an 11-to-1 run. The Blue Devils would never get any closer, ending in a disappointing 75-59 loss to Thomas Dale as they learned another harsh lesson.

"It's the same story on a different night," Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John said after the game. "You look down the bench and everyone has foul trouble and you try to have guys go in and try to not pick up a third. And the way we play defense, it just doesn't work."

When plagued with foul trouble, Hopewell's (6-9) vaunted pressure-defense turns into little more than traffic cones lined up on the court as Thomas Dale (6-6) showed in a dominating second and third quarters of action.

Andrien White ended the first half by sinking a 3-pointer from atop the circle, but in the third quarter, he took full advantage of the Blue Devils' miscues. Two steals in the open-court led to two thunderous dunks, one of which in the two-handed variety en route to a 25-point night.

Yet, even after being out-scored by a 23-to-12 margin in the third quarter, Hopewell did not lay-down in the fourth. Darrell Taylor gained positioning in the low-blocks, scoring four consecutive points finishing with 11 points on the night helping to fuel a 7-1 Blue Devils' run to cut the deficit to 15 points.

"In the first quarter when we had our five in and were able to substitute how we wanted to, we were fine," St. John said of how foul troubles affected his team. "When we came out in the second-half, I was really confident we would be okay. I thought we came out flat ... We just got to play one quarter at a time."

And while they entered the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach trailing 60-42 they played their best eight-minute stretch of the game since the first quarter, showing what they are capable of when they have a full compliment of players.

In fact, during the fourth quarter, Tabyus Taylor scored six of his 13 points to help cut into the deficit while showing the fight good teams have to finish strong.

However, 16 minutes of good basketball will not earn a team a victory. Hopewell has struggled to play a full 32 minutes of a game and it's why they have tallied two impressive wins, but also experienced late-game collapses.

To make matters worse, for the first time all season, transition defense was an issue for Hopewell as the Knights went coast-to-coast for easy scores.

"We did a poor job tonight in transition defense which is the only time this year we've done that," St. John said. "You can't be lackadaisical against well-coached teams and you can't be lackadaisical against athletic teams. That bit us tonight."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

But the play of Isaiah Fernandez was a bright spot for a team looking for answers. The junior point guard may not be known for his offense he's known for his uncanny ability to not turn the ball over while registering assists at will with a 1.43 assist-to-turnover ratio but his scoring took the stage on this night.

Fernandez drained a 3-pointer during Hopewell's fourth quarter run, topping off his 9-point effort, his second-highest scoring output of the season.

"He's not known for his offense, but he has 24 or 25 more assists than turnovers and last night he had eight rebounds," St. John said. "The kid gives you everything."

And it's for these reasons there is still optimism around this team.

Daniel Saunders struggled because of foul trouble as he finished with a team-high 14 points while Deonte Jones tallied just 5 points for his first non double-digit scoring output in five games, yet Hopewell still showed glimpses of a team ready to make a run.

"We hit shots from the beginning. They were wide-open shots because we made the extra pass or we cut off a driving guy," St. John said. "When we play like that, we're dangerous. But, there's a difference in playing four quarters or four minutes that way."

Once Hopewell can consistently play at the level St. John expects out of his team, losing three out of four games will not be a common occurrence.

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