Hopewell Snaps Matoaca's Streak
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 11, 2014, 21:42
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — The Blue Devils have searched all season long for the elusive signature win and Tuesday evening presented another chance as Matoaca brought their 12-game winning streak onto Bill Littlepage Court.
The Warriors had defeated Hopewell in their previous meeting as they overcame a six-point deficit in the final 62 seconds to capture a 62-61 victory. With the loss firmly in the back of their minds and carrying the weight of a three-game losing streak, the Blue Devils brought the attack to Matoaca from the opening-tip.
It took just seven seconds for Hopewell's Daniel Saunders to open up the scoring with a right-corner 3-pointer to begin an offensive onslaught like no other they have experienced this season. The Blue Devils connected on their first seven field goals and jumped out to a 17-0 lead 4:01 into the game.
A stingy defensive effort made sure the momentum would stay with Hopewell throughout in a dominating 74-58 victory over a red-hot Warriors team.
"We do three keys and the first one was that we were going to fight through all screens and make them go baseline," Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John said after the win. "And the third one was that we going to keep giving them different looks. We didn't want them to get into a rhythm and keep them guessing. We were able to do that tonight without people getting confused or out of position."
The only players on the court confused were the ones donning the red and white uniform.
Matoaca's guards looked completely bewildered during each offensive possession as they stared at an ever-changing jigsaw puzzle which was the Hopewell defense. The different defenses: man-to-man, zone, match-up harassed the Warriors into committing 16 turnovers in the first half alone.
And no one was more important to the defensive effort than Blue Devils point guard Isaiah Fernandez.
The junior set the defensive tone on Matoaca's first offensive-set by blowing up a double-screen set for Devin Morgan and continued with his hounding ball-pressure. In addition, the help defense rolled at the right times, supplementing Fernandez's effort and limiting the duo of Khalil Coleman and Morgan to just 22 points on the night.
"He did a great job with that, but everyone was looking to help," St. John said of his team's defense. "I don't mind giving up the dump downs when everyone is looking to help. We are getting production where we need it."
It's production that has been inconsistent through much of the season, but has started to shine through over the course of the last two weeks, especially in the game of Tabyus Taylor.
The senior guard dropped in 21 points — his second-highest scoring output of the season — against Matoaca and now has recorded double-figure scoring numbers in the last seven games, averaging 16 points per game during the span.
Yet, his biggest shot came during the late stages of the third quarter while Matoaca inched closer to the Blue Devils, cutting the deficit to just 15 points. But Taylor fired up a corner 3-pointer while drawing contact, made the shot and the ensuing free-throw for the rare 4-point play, giving Matoaca the proverbial stiff-arm.
"On Senior Night you expect seniors to show up and the first one looked really good," St. John said of Taylor's performance. "I didn't feel like he forced any tonight. What makes Tabyus so hard to guard is that he will give that pump-fake and take you to the rack."
However, Darrell Taylor's importance to the Hopewell lineup cannot be understated. The 6-foot-4 forward makes his presence felt on the defensive end with his length, especially on traps and on inbounds plays, while also defending the rim with his intimidating swats.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Although it has been his offensive game which has stole the show of late as he continued to showcase his ability to both create off-the-dribble and finish in traffic during a 12-point performance.
"The most impressive part to me was he got the ball, drove past his guy and he's going in and I knew he was thinking dunk," St. John said. "They had a guard slide over ready to take a charge and he just pulls up and lets a floater go. I'll take that any day of the week."
He will also take the type of offensive explosion of having nine different players crack the scoresheet as well, filling each one of their roles perfectly. Deonte Jones positioned himself baseline, connecting on one 3-pointer but also displaying driving ability in a 8-point effort.
Daniel Saunders put in his usual double-digit scoring effort with 12 points while Johnnie Harrison tallied just 3 points, but gave another sparkling defensive effort. Even Matt Trevillian kept the crowd on its feat by drawing a charge in the final minute after Ryan McLasky sunk two free throws, highlighting the type of team-effort it was in the tidy victory.
Whether it was an aberration or a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but if Hopewell plays at the same level, first-round Conference 26 Tournament opponent Petersburg may find themselves facing an early exit Monday night.