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

Hopewell's Team-Effort Dispatches Colonials
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 31, 2014, 22:31

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
COLONIAL HEIGHTS One could have excused Hopewell's basketball team if they displayed some rust during their game against Colonial Heights Friday evening. After all, it was the Blue Devils' first contest since they defeated Prince George exactly two weeks ago.

Yet, instead of shaking off cobwebs and having to regain their playing form, Hopewell's players showed some maturation on the court as the Colonials' defense took them by surprise. Instead of facing the 1-3-1 defense Colonial Heights has used all season, the Blue Devils stared right into the mouth of a match-up zone defense as soon as they won the opening tip.

Earlier this season, zone defenses caused the Blue Devils to panic as they rushed their offensive sets and settled too often for low-percetage jump-shots. However, with Isaiah Fernandez at the helm, Hopewell remained patient as they passed the ball both inside and out while also trying to create penetrating drives to the basket.

And it was off a drive to the basket by Fernandez that allowed Malik Monds to receive a quick pass which led him to the hoop for the game's first points in a Hopewell possession lasting 1:17. Then, Monds would follow the lay-in with an elbow jump-shot, sending Hopewell on a 12-1 run which set the tone for a dominating 88-49 victory.

"Obviously there are still some things we need to work on, but we came in prepared for a 1-3-1 and they opened in a match-up zone. I thought our kids attacked it pretty well," Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John said after his team's second biggest margin of victory this season. "We made adjustments on the fly and I thought our pressure helped a little, but our offensive rebounding really made the difference."

It was Darrell Taylor who led the way on the offensive glass, showing the type of confidence in his game which had been lacking all season but has recently resurfaced. Following a dunk in the third quarter against the Royals, Taylor has been a different player.

The 6-foot-4 forward has soared for offensive rebounds at will which he did against the Colonials for five offensive rebounds while also showing off his offensive repertoire, tallying 10 points on the night. Yet, Taylor also exhibited confidence in his ball-handling ability by twice leading Hopewell in transition and finding Johnnie Harrison for two consecutive lay-ins during a 10-point night for the sophomore.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

"He's really stepped into a leadership role," St. John said of Taylor. "It's one of those things that when you a junior in the latter part of the year, they are really seniors at this point. He wants to take games over. It's what we were hoping for in the beginning of the year, but we'll take it now."

However, Taylor was not alone in the Blue Devils' domination in the paint.

With Monds exiting the game after picking up two fouls with 4:03 to go in the first, it was Thorton McCoy who stepped up in the senior's absence. The 6-foot forward who had scored just 17 points all season, exploded for a season-high 12 points against Colonial Heights.

The junior forward scored six points during a 14-0 Hopewell run in the middle of the second quarter before hammering in the exclamation point by following up a Taylor miss with a tip-in as the horn sounded to end the half, giving Hopewell a 46-18 lead.

His effort on the defensive end and energy in attacking the boards was enough to impress Hopewell's coach.

"This is the first time he's played organized basketball, so that's a career high for him as well, but he was huge for us on the glass," St. John said. "He's so athletic and he comes up with a lot of things too. There's deflections and if he can eat up minutes for us, it only helps us down the road."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

It also helped Hopewell to face a Colonial Heights squad which never relents, no matter the score. If not for the Blue Devils playing one of their better defensive games of the season, the Colonials Jacob Ezell could have made things interesting. The sharpshooter seemed to connect on every 3-pointer he fired, scoring 14 points on the night.

However, the Blue Devils would respond to his shooting ability with good ball denial and transition baskets, allowing St. John to rotate minutes played almost evenly throughout his bench.

And those players stepped up as all 12 players scored in the 39-point victory. Coming off the bench, Daniel Saunders dropped in a game-high 18 points while Monds dropped in 9 followed by Jahquan Harris' season-high 8 points. Deonte Jones and Fernandez each dropped in 5 points while Brandon Young, Antoine Ford and Matt Trevillian tallied 4, 3 and 2 points respectively.

"It's very important," St. John said of playing everyone after the long lay-off. "It's different in practice. It's different when you can't predict what the other team's going to do."

But after facing a live opponent and having the opportunity to get everyone involved, Hopewell put themselves in better position to have success entering a critical week of play in front of them with games against Petersburg, Meadowbrook and Dinwiddie.

The Blue Devils are a combined 0-4 against the trio and with a solid week of basketball, they can sound the alarms of a team peaking at the right time.

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