Lady Royals Overcome Wave
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
Feb 11, 2014, 10:34
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE – Royals coach Billy Gray was waiting for a game like Monday night’s battle against Petersburg. He warned his team about potential trap games. Games that favor your team on paper, but on the court things don’t seem to work out that way.
“We warned the team about this kind of game all season,” Gray said. “Petersburg came to play and we were a little flat.”
So when Petersburg’s Lady Wave basketball team came out in man-to-man defense and basically shut down Ariel Stephenson in the early going, things took a sudden and unexpected bad turn for the Royals. Tor’R’yck Crocker guarded Stephenson most of the game. Crocker’s speed allowed her to keep up with Stephenson, and made it hard for the Royals to find their go-to girl when they needed to get the ball to her. Meanwhile, Beasha Gregory was all over the court blocking passes and interfering everywhere with the Royals’ offensive sets.
Consequently, the Lady Wave not only kept Stephenson in check, they also managed to out-hustle Prince George for loose balls, and eke out a 6-3 first quarter lead. It could have been worse. The Lady Wave missed several shots from close in, and had it not been for a Stephenson conventional three-point play – layup and foul shot – in the waning moments of the quarter, would have held the high-scoring Royals scoreless.
In the end, however, Prince George would prevail 47-21.
“I think we came out a little flat and I knew we needed something to get us going. No one was stepping up and I just helped pick up the intensity,” Stephenson said.
Petersburg continued to apply pressure, but Stephenson, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Jo Jo Taylor, five boards, four steals, and five assists, picked up the pace on offense. Stephenson scored eight of her game high 21 points in the second quarter, including the go ahead points to make the score 9-8 Royals. She was the only player to score in double figures. Meanwhile, Taylor either made steals or forced turnovers as Prince George edged their way to an 18-13 lead.
“We always play defense. The last two times we played Prince George, Ariel was the only player to score double digits. We made a special effort tonight to try to keep that from happening again,” Petersburg Coach Raymond Patton said.
During the intermission, Gray told his players to continue to play hard on defense and to take more time on offense. He also told them they needed to hustle more on defense.
“We talked to the kids about how they probably played the worst first quarter of their entire careers. We challenged them to come out and play hard,” Gray said.
The team responded by holding Petersburg to two points in the third quarter, while they racked up 20 to assume a 38-15 lead. Stephenson and Taylor led the charge with six points apiece.
“He just told us to keep playing hard and everything would work out. With the style of basketball we play, teams are going to wear down eventually and as long as we keep playing our style of basketball, we would be good,” Stephenson said.
In the first quarter in particular, the Royals could get nothing to fall. Inside shots they normally put down, rimmed out or missed the basket completely. Stephenson’s normally accurate outside shot couldn’t find the mark either, which is why she turned to driving into the lane. Twice she drove into the paint, spun around a defender, and popped in a layup. But even when she got to the line in the early going, the ball just didn’t seem to fit the basket. She was two of eight on free throws in the first half, but four for four in the third quarter. As a team, the normally accurate Royals finished at 45 percent from the free throw line on 11 of 24 shooting.
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Still, she and Taylor continued to take control on defense. Taylor picked off a number of passes, and Stephenson kept rebounds alive long enough to haul them in. As the Royals continued to surge in the third quarter, the Lady Wave’s offense faltered.
“Ariel is one of the best players in the country. There’s always a special effort to stop her. The last two times we played them, Ariel was the only player in double figures. They scored 63 last time and only 47 tonight,” Patton said. “We did some awesome things, but succumbed to the pressure in the end.”
When the tide turned for good in the third quarter, Ariel’s play was key. In addition to scoring, she was also able to set other players up on her drives by dishing for the easier score. As she drove to the basket and the Petersburg defense shifted to keep her from getting easy points, Stephenson fed Kiara Anderson, Markia Smith, and Taylor for lay ups.
“There’s no one who can hang with her and stop her, if she takes it inside she is either going to make the basket or get the foul. They played us hard and tight, and we came out in the second half and played a little better,” Gray said.
PETERSBURG (11-7) — Crocker 7, Gregory 5, K. Ellis 5, Herring 0, S. Ellis 0, Fitzgerald 0, Bridgeforth 0, Green 2, Williams 2, Harper 0. Totals 9 2-10 21.
PRINCE GEORGE (19-0) — Taylor 9, Weatherspoon 0, Bowen 3, Anderson 4, Stephenson 21, Perkins 1, Washington 2, Gardner 0, Smith 4, Brown 3. Totals 17 11-24 47.
Petersburg 6 7 2 6 – 21
Prince George 3 15 20 9 - 47