Commentary: Royals Remain Puzzling
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 3, 2014, 09:44
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — Prior to the season's first game, there was a tremendous amount of intrigue surrounding the Royals basketball team. It was a squad filled with young talented players, some of which transfers and others who came up through the school's system.
It all added up to a team many felt had a chance to be among the best in the old Central District. With Petersburg High School as the benchmark, it surely seemed Prince George could match the Crimson Wave with their athleticism and perhaps even surpass them in terms of talent.
Yet, through a full two-thirds of the season — a span of 16 games — the Royals have won just four games while suffering multiple 30-pont losses, the last of which a 35-point loss to Petersburg Saturday night.
While Prince George had entered the match-up having not a played a competitive game in 15 days due to cancellations because of weather, it was the continuation of a puzzling trend for a team which has not played up to their capabilities. In fact, after the latest loss, head coach Travis Carr was similarly incredulous with his team's performance, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Because the Royals allowed the Petersburg trio of Aundrey Fitzgerald, Gemonta Jackson and Kaimonne' Douglas to total a combined 51 points — one more than the entire Prince George team.
"It's frustrating because it's not like we don't know who those guys are," Carr said after the loss. "In pregame talk, we specifically point out their shooters ... plus these kids know each other, so it's not a surprise. They know who can shoot and who can't."
However, there have been moments this season where one could see the type of ability the Royals have.
This is a team who defeated Petersburg once and took them to the wire in a close loss at the Fort Lee Holiday Tournament. It's for these reasons Prince George is a team to watch as the season comes to a close.
Due to postponements of games, the Royals are facing a telling stretch of six games in 10 days. It's a critical 10-day span which could put Prince George in the driver's seat entering the conference tournament or have them a wounded team.
Although, current evidence continues to point toward the Royals on the climb up. Prince George is finally seeing key members of their rotation become healthy after suffering through a rash of injuries over the first part of the season.
In fact, the addition of a healthy Quincy Cunningham can be a key to Prince George heading forward. Cunningham's ability to shoot the long-range jump-shot is vital to a free-wheeling Royals' offense. If he can drain the outside shot, it opens up key driving lanes and stretches the defense to help his team's forwards.
Pair up Cunningham's shooting ability with the inside post-moves of Savonte Chappell and the Royals' offense can open up. It's the type of production one has seen just glimpses of this season in a rout over Colonial Heights and a close loss to Hopewell last month.
And while it's obvious to onlookers this Royals squad is talented, the players are dealing with a loss of confidence. It's one of the only ways to explain shooting just 10-of-26 from the free-throw line in Saturday's loss.
Yet, the loss may be exactly what this team needed.
Early in the fourth quarter, one could have looked at the bench and seen the Royals' players with shoulders slumped and faces filled with dejection. However, following a post-game talk in the locker room, they had faces of players determined to turn their season around.
"After the meeting we just had in the locker room, I think some of the players are motivated and they actually learned and took something from this," Carr said. "We don't settle for this."
While previous results don't dictate Prince George will respond immediately, talent can only be kept down for so long. Chappell and Brian Fullman on the inside, Cunningham, Cory Hill and BJ Knight on the outside.
It's a starting lineup on paper that can contend with any they face. Over the next 10 days, the Royals can either continue puzzling those around the team or put their talent to work and finish the season strong.