Prince George Magic Runs Out In Finals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 21, 2014, 23:42
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTERFIELD — After earning just six wins during the regular season, Prince George completely stunned the rest of their Conference 12 foes by donning their cinderella slippers as they knocked off Manchester and No. 1 seeded Meadowbrook over a span of three days.
It was a 72-hour span of the best basketball Prince George had played all season, showing off the mental grit and determination that they had lacked previously while clinching a spot in Regionals. Forty-eight hours after upsetting Meadowbrook, the Royals had a chance to do the same to a heavily favored L.C. Bird squad in a nothing-to-lose situation.
And Prince George tallied six of the game's first nine points, playing care-free basketball and letting their talent takeover. Yet, after just one quarter of the frenetic pace of play, the Royals found themselves trailing 21-15 with momentum sliding toward the Skyhawks.
However, the Royals would respond, opening the second quarter on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 21-21, forcing a L.C. Bird timeout. Unfortunately, it would be the last time Prince George would either be tied or lead as the Skyhawks finished the quarter on a 14-to-5 run, leading to a dominating 75-56 victory.
"Before the game we took that mentality of not having anything to lose," Prince George head coach Travis Carr said after the game. "They came out loose and had nothing to worry about and it showed. All week we have been down early and had to claw our way back ... I was really proud of the effort in that sense."
Although it would be difficult for Prince George's (8-17) players and coaching staff to ponder the what ifs which presented itself during a dismal second quarter.
As well as Prince George played during the opening 10:20 of action as they traded baskets with the No. 12 ranked team in the state, is how poorly they played over the final 5:40 of the quarter. The Royals turned the ball over seven times, connecting on just two field goals the rest of the way.
To make matters worse, as the offense suffered to get a rhythm going, the defense sunk with it as the Skyhawks (18-4) had their way with penetrating drives and easy pick-and-rolls.
"That's been our achilles heel all year," Carr said of his team's penchant for turnovers. "We've played great ball this week and if we just take care of the ball, we are going to get the results we want ... at least we would be in the games. The numbers don't lie, the turnovers are going to equal bad results."
And while the turnovers surely hurt the Royals, so did the 3-point shooting of the Skyhawks. Much like they have all season, Prince George struggled to run shooters off the 3-point line as L.C. Bird connected on eight treys on the game, including four in the first quarter.
Yet, for all the negatives, there were also positives for a Royals team which has started to see the type of ability they have.
Cory Hill started off the season as one of the most reliable shooters on Prince George, but as the season wore on, his play suffered. Hill would either be reluctant to shoot, try to be a quintessential point guard and pass or would misfire.
However, against the stable of talented Skyhawks guards, Hill impressed with his ability to create off-the-dribble while finishing off an and-1 play and also showed his range by nailing a 3-pointer en route to a team-high 12-point effort.
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"We strive on having a balanced team where a scorer can come out of anywhere in our lineup and it has been that way all week," Carr said. "Cory had a pretty good game. He drove the ball well, shot the ball well. He's not going to back down from anyone."
And neither is Chazz Jenkins.
While the Royals stat-sheet was filled with the usual names scoring points as Savonte Chappell dropped in 10 points, Brian Fullman added 6 points and Quincy Cunningham tallied four, it was Jenkins' effort which stood out.
Once again, it was the Royals' swingman creating shots for himself and his teammates as he took over the game in spurts, scoring 10 points in the loss. It was just another continuation of his maturation of a player, especially during the three games of the Conference 12 Tournament where he's been key to the Royals reaching the finals.
"As a coach, you want to develop your players and see them get better over the course of the year," Carr said of his younger players as a whole. "We're still building. We have a lot of young guys and our expectations are high as they continue to grow."
But nothing has grown more than the confidence the Prince George players now have in themselves.
For much of the year, one could see the visible frustrations on the players as the losses piled up and their shoulders become more slumped as the season wore on. Yet, after picking up two stunning victories and showing they can play with the Skyhawks, they now see what they can accomplish if they play well.
"As the losses pile up, you kind of get the mentality of not being able to do it and you start not believing in each other," Carr said. "But these guys hold true, before the week started, I told them they had to believe in each other and they earned their spot in the game tonight."
Prince George also earned themselves a spot in Regionals where their newfound belief in each other and abilities can lead them to more upsets, starting with defending champion Henrico Tuesday night.