Mealy, Gregory Headline Statesmen Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 19, 2014, 16:43
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — A few days after making the jump to the No. 10 position in the National Junior College Athletic Association's Top 20 poll, Richard Bland received a taste of the type of perils it will face in the coming weeks after earning a hard-fought, 10-point win over Patrick Henry Community College Wednesday.
It's why it should have came as no surprise that Potomac State College of West Virginia entered Statesmen Hall, aiming to take-down the nationally ranked Statesmen and over the first 18:08 of game-action, it seemed likely to happen.
Richard Bland and Potomac State traded baskets each way through a first half filled with 13 lead changes — 11 of those coming after the Statesmen jumped out to a 15-10 lead. The physicality of the the Potomac State team gave the Statesmen all it could handle until an 8-0 run to end the half gave Richard Bland a seven-point lead entering the locker room.
Potomac State would never once inch closer than three points the rest of the way as Tavon Mealy and Brian Adkins erupted for a combined 24 points in the last 20 minutes, leading Richard Bland to a 92-78 victory.
"Potomac is a good team. They play really, really hard. They affected us early on with how physical they were," Richard Bland head coach Chuck Moore said after his team's seventh-straight victory. "We adjusted to it and settled down. It's also late in the year and every team is getting better and that's what we're going to see. We're also going to need to get better as well."
Fortunately for Moore, the Statesmen (16-1) continue to make the necessary improvements needed to sustain their current winning streak.
One needs to only review the first half where Mealy was held to just 4 points after entering the game as Richard Bland's second-leading scorer at 17 points per game to highlight how deep the Statesmen are. There was no panic on the sidelines or on the bench even when Mealy's struggles were compounded by Micah Thomas' inability to receive touches or put up shots.
The team's leading-scorer at 19.2 points per contest finished the first 20 minutes with 10 points, but six of those came on two long 3-pointers early. Yet, even with their top two scoring options limited, the Statesmen remained potent.
Lequan Thomas dropped in 11 first half points — enough to set a season-high — and helped carry the load for an offense trying to adjust to the physicality of Potomac State. In fact, it was Thomas' ability to create contact on penetrating drives through the lane which not only led to his scores, but easy opportunities for his teammates.
"That's always been one of the things that is our strongest asset," Moore said of his team's scoring ability. "We have weapons from every position and when one guy isn't doing something another guy can. If they key on someone, somebody else steps up ... that's the difference between our team and others."
Richard Bland's ability to score in multiple ways such as in transition, through the post or the perimeter can leave opponents confused and disorientated, especially when their attack changes from half-to-half like it did Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Over the final 20 minutes, Mealy picked up where Melvin Gregory left off in the first half when he scored 12 of his 19 points. While Gregory scored with finesse moves in the low-blocks, Mealy began to attack the Potomac State defenders.
Utilizing up-fakes and ability to use his body to shield the basketball on the way up, Mealy dropped in 16 of his team-high 20 points while grabbing 14 rebounds for another double-double. His performances have become so common-place, Moore has run out of superlatives to describe his 6-foot-3 forward's play.
"We emphasized at halftime about getting him the touches down low," Moore explained. "I didn't feel like they could guard him ... When he gets it, he produces."
But it was neither Mealy nor Gregory who also finished the game with a double-double, hauling in 14 boards to go along with his 19 points, which clinched the victory.
The honor belonged to Brian Adkins who had no points at the 8:08 mark of the second half before unloading for 10 of Richard Bland's next 12 points during an extended 16-to-3 run which increased the Statesmen lead from seven points to 20 points, clinching the win.
However, the fact it took the Statesmen so long to dispatch a seven-win team, highlighted what they face over the coming weeks. A national ranking brings with it both attention and their opponent's best shot, something which will keep Richard Bland on edge as the season comes to a close.
"We concentrate each day in practice on that next opponent," Moore said of his team's mentality. "We have got to better defensively in order to get the stops we needed. Teams are getting better offensively and they're going to make more shots. Guarding is going to be the difference between us continuing to win or battle through close games."
Richard Bland is allowing 72 points per game, ranking 41st in the conference for that category. If it doesn't improve, the Statesmen will continue to face tight games where one possession could mean the difference of a win or loss. Which one happens will be anyone's guess.