Hopewell Stuns Petersburg In First Round
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 17, 2014, 22:59
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — With the Crimson Wave creeping closer to a comeback and momentum tilting heavily in their direction following an 11-4 run, Hopewell's Darrell Taylor stood at the top of key and used his long wingspan to get into the passing lane to steal possession back for the Blue Devils.
Taylor immediately took off down the court, outracing everyone before rising above the rim and slamming in an emphatic dunk to give the Blue Devils an eight-point lead with 55 seconds remaining, inciting the bench and the small Hopewell contingent into delirium.
However, Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John had seen this story before. He stared at the scoreboard not once, but twice before walking down his bench to calm down his players and remind them to not relax. But as the seconds ticked down and Hopewell continued to maintain a sizable advantage, St. John looked up to the scoreboard one last time and allowed himself to smile.
St. John walked up and down his bench again, but this time fist-bumped each one of his coaches and players as Petersburg's Rasir Bolton hit a jumper as the final buzzer sounded on Hopewell's biggest win this season in a 76-70 triumph.
"They're not going to quit," St. John said of the Crimson Wave. "We knew they were going to keep coming ... it's one of those things where I've seen crazier and I didn't want to be Maryland tonight with Duke walking out with their hands up in the air, that's for sure."
But Deonte Jones would not let that happen to his Hopewell (10-12) squad as he hit clutch shot after clutch shot, sinking Petersburg (14-6) deeper into a hole it could not climb out of during a career-high scoring outburst.
It didn't take long for Jones to make his presence felt either, connecting on his first shot midway through the first quarter on a corner 3-pointer, foreshadowing the events to unfold. Because in the second quarter, Jones would connect on three more from beyond-the-arc, the last of which gave Hopewell a 30-17 lead with 4:03 remaining in the half.
Yet, the sophomore was not done.
With the Crimson Wave on a 5-0 run to cut their deficit to just five points, it was Jones who drove hard through the lane to finish a basket for two of his 31 points on the night, including six 3-pointers to swing momentum back to Hopewell.
"I think a lot of people have been asking where he's been because he was hot and then he wasn't," St. John said of the sophomore's up-and-down season. "He played great. He's dangerous, but while he was scoring, we had other guys score as well."
In fact, Hopewell tallied 25 field goals with 13 of those coming from 3-point range as Isaiah Fernandez did a great job of driving through the lane to draw the defense in before kicking it out to open teammates.
While Jones was the game-high scorer, Tabyus Taylor also played a critical role in the Blue Devils' win with a 20-point effort while recording numerous rebounds on the defensive side of the ball to halt Petersburg possessions. And it was on the defensive side of the ball where the true difference was made.
The Crimson Wave's offensive-attack can be unstoppable at times with their sheer volume of half-court sets they can run at a given moment, yet in this game they had no answer. Much like they did against Matoaca, the Blue Devils' defense fought through screens, closed out on the 3-point line and denied both the baseline and paint, leaving Petersburg confused.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"They run great offense," St. John said of Petersburg. "And they were several times where they were used to having an open shot and they were just confused ... in the big moments, we stepped up when we needed to."
It showed in how the Blue Devils limited Kaimonne Douglas to 14 points, Gemonta Jackson to 17 points and team-leader Gevon Arrington to just 9 points. And it also showed in the production St. John received from his entire team.
With Daniel Saunders in foul trouble all game long — Hopewell's leading scorer was held without a point against the Crimson Wave — Antoine Ford scored 7 points in his absence. Fernandez dropped in 6 points of his own while Malik Monds supplied great defense as well as 6 points.
Even Johnnie Harrison and Brandon Young entered the game and helped change momentum with solid man-to-man defense. However, after an emotional win, the hard part is normally regathering a team's focus entering the next game.
Yet, St. John believes that won't be a problem as Hopewell readies to play George Wythe, a team which embarrassed the Blue Devils on opening-night in a 16-point loss.
"Luckily for us we got embarrassed on opening-night to George Wythe and our kids are already focused and ready," St. John said. "It's one of those things that in a conference like ours, it doesn't matter what seed you are, if you are going to do something you need to beat quality teams ... no disrespect to anyone else, but I think we climbed the biggest hurdle for us."
Hopewell didn't just advance to the next game, but both defeated and vanquished a string of futility to the Crimson Wave, giving them momentum and confidence heading into the semifinal round of the Conference 26 Tournament.