No. 7 Richard Bland Knocks off No. 2 Hurricanes
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 22, 2014, 23:08
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — This was the game where much would be learned about this Richard Bland men's basketball team. Sure, they were riding a eight-game winning-streak and had a No. 7 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association's Top 20 poll.
And it's true the Statesmen had suffered just one set-back all season long while winning games by an average margin of 17.9 points per game. However, they had not yet faced a team like Louisburg College.
The Hurricanes ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA polls, scored an average of 90.8 points per game and entered Statesmen Hall riding their own nine-game winning-streak. It's why it was no surprise that after a turnaround jump-shot by the Marcus Freeman, it was the Hurricanes holding a 67-64 advantage with just 1:56 remaining on the clock.
Yet, this Statesmen squad would not relent and even after a turnover on their next offensive possession, they settled down on defense. The Hurricanes ran their offensive-set to perfection, but could not get themselves a good look because of the quick and smart rotations of the Statesmen's defense.
Then, Trey Brown — the Hurricanes' guard would drop in a team-high 15 points on the night — fired up a long jumper which clanked off iron and went high into the air. Eyeing the basketball at its apex was 5-foot-7 guard Trayvonte Brown who immediately soared into the air in between the 6-foot-8 Freeman and 6-foot-7 Keyshaun Williams, grabbing possession before immediately pushing the ball up the floor.
Brown quickly spotted Micah Thomas beyond the arc and deftly placed a bounce pass toward him. Thomas grabbed the pass in stride, rose up and fired, tying the game with a 3-pointer — for three of his 13 points on the night. Just 55 seconds later, it was former NJCAA player of the week Tavon Mealy essentially wrapping up a win with a quick spin-move in the low-post, giving Richard Bland the lead it would not relinquish.
Two free throws hit by Brown would increase the lead before the buzzer sounded on the Statesmen's most impressive win of the season, 71-68, to hand Louisburg just their second loss of their campaign.
"They have six sophomores that have already been playing in these games and we don't, so the inexperience showed at times, but our guys have fight in them," Richard Bland head coach Chuck Moore said after the win. "They didn't give up. When things go tough, they are going to turnaround and keep scrapping and that's what ended up paying off."
It's that toughness Moore alluded to which showed in the results after Richard Bland (16-1) had overcome a three-point deficit and 19 lead changes to defeat the Hurricanes (16-2).
It showed in Thomas' bounce-back effort after being pulled from the game early in the second half following a missed 3-pointer on one possession and a turnover on a cross-court pass attempt on another. As the 5-foot-9 guard walked to the bench, Moore laid into him, imploring to get the best out of the former NJCAA player of the week.
And it worked as 11 of his 13 points would come in the second half with none bigger than the 3-pointer to tie the game.
"He knows what's expected and he's a player," Moore explained. "If he wasn't a player or wasn't the ball-player that I love, I wouldn't have gotten on him like that because he knows the mistake that he made."
However, Moore would have been hard-pressed to find many mistake or reasons to bemoan his team after one of the best team-wide efforts he received all season.
With Thomas again being keyed on by an opposing team, other players needed to step up in his absence and Marquis Powell made his presence felt during the first 20 minutes of action.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
The Maryland native is not known for his offense, having recorded just a game-high of 8 points all season, but for the second-straight game, he recorded 7 points, helping the Statesmen to a 37-32 halftime lead. Add in the performances of Andre Stanley and Drew Walton who played extended minutes while Melvin Gregory and Mealy sat with foul trouble and one could see how much this game meant to the Statesmen.
In perhaps their best defensive effort of the season, Richard Bland had to be without Gregory's middle-of-the-paint presence — four blocks on the game — and Mealy's physicality for long stretches, yet still contained the high-powered Hurricanes.
They did so with team-wide contributions, including another big effort from Mealy with 15 points and Gregory's 9 points. The Statesmen also forced Louisburg into 14 turnovers in the decisive second-half of action, including one preceding Mealy's go-ahead basket.
It's the type of game that can turn skeptics into believers in a program which has been reborn after nearly 20 years with a special group of hard-nosed players.
"It just says this is a special group which has so much fight in them and they play as a team and that's what wins games," Moore said. "The rest is just a matter of executing better."
After reeling off nine-straight wins and defeating the No. 2 ranked team while holding them to their lowest scoring output of the season, opponents are gasping at the thought of the Statesmen playing at an even higher level.