Knights' Offense Rolls Past Royals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 6, 2014, 21:52
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — Thomas Dale's season has had more ebbs and flows than the current stock market, leaving questions as to how far the Knights can advance upon entering the Conference 3 Tournament in less than two weeks.
However, if their performance against Prince George is any indication, the Knights can be the surprise team in their conference by registering some early round upsets.
Entering the game looking for their first set of back-to-back wins since Dec. 6 and Dec. 9 — a span of 11 games — it was the Knights who struck first just 48 seconds into the game on a Collin Fleischer punishing post-move for two.
It was just the start of a high-scoring first quarter of action which saw every Thomas Dale starter crack the scoresheet in just 3:26 of game-action en route to taking a 27-18 lead. The Knights would extend the advantage with an 8-2 run to begin the second quarter, establishing a 13-point lead and riding it to a 86-76 victory.
"When we play hard and we really defend and rebound, we're pretty good," Knights head coach Eddie Goss said after his team's second-highest scoring game of the season. "We have a tendency to be lazy and take things for granted ... that's what I emphasized at halftime. We still get out of control at times, but when we play like a team, we're good."
And Goss saw both sides of his Knights' (7-8) squad during a game they led by as much as 15 points on two separate occasions during the final 16 minutes of action with both of them ending in a Royals' (5-14) run.
Fleischer's offensive rebound and put-back plus the foul put the Knights ahead 66-51, but a quick 4-0 run by the Royals on the strength of Savonte Chappell and Cory Hill cut into the lead. But while Prince George shot the ball well and played with great intensity in spurts, it was the Knights who had the answer.
Every time the Royals would cut into the deficit, Thomas Dale made sure to never let them over the hump. Whether it was through an offensive-set or by making defensive stops, Goss' squad responded each time, perhaps none more important than with 58 seconds left.
Prince George shooting guard Shonquez Henry nailed a corner 3-pointer in transition to cut the Knights lead to just six at 81-75. Thomas Dale responded by making 5-of-6 from the free-throw line to end the game while allowing the Royals just one more point the rest of the way.
The Knights effort was an aesthically pleasing performance on how to run an offense, pleasing their coach who has the third-most wins by active coaches in the VHSL.
"We rotate, we move the ball and stuff like that, but then we took bad shots and they got lay-ups which got them back into the game," Goss said after career win No. 555. "We have to play solid all the time."
Yet, the Knights were more than solid in attacking the offensive glass. Their offensive rebounding numbers on the weak-side was the difference in the 10-point game as a combination of Fleischer, Christian Clarke and Andrien White who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, dominated the game.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"That's our emphasis. You rebound and defend and you can win," Goss said. "If you do those two things, you're going to win."
However, it's become clear the Knights would not be as successful without Fleischer in the front court.
While White can dazzle the crowd with his emphatic slams like he did against the Royals, it's Fleischer who sets the tone with his tenacity in the paint. The senior forward follows up every one of his teammate's shot-attempts, hurling himself toward loose-balls and rebounds like a heat-seeking missile.
And it's not just his rebounding which stands out, but the way he can stretch the floor with his mid-range game, helping set-up teammates in the process.
"He has a great motor and has a desire to win," Goss said of Fleischer's team-high 22-point, eight-rebound effort. "This is the way he played as a sophomore ... last year he didn't play this hard and it makes a difference. He's getting eight rebounds and 12-13 points a game. It's not spectacular, but as a team, it's great."
The same could be said about Clarke who added 20 points of his own while AJ Holliday dropped in 6 points and dished out six assists.
If the Knights can get this type of effort through the rest of the season with a team-wide commitment on defense and staying within the offense, solid team wins will follow, giving them the blueprint to success in the Conference 3 Tournament.