Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Bates And Ugba Lead Richard Bland To Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 26, 2014, 20:40

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG After playing their worst game of the season in a spiritless loss to Wake Technical Community College, Richard Bland took to the court Wednesday night with determination and grit to take control of the game from the opening-tip.

Facing a Tidewater Community College team which had just one win entering the game, Richard Bland took the attack right to them when Evan Bates nailed a right-wing 3-pointer to open the scoring. But after trading baskets with the Storm over the next several minutes, the Statesmen took complete control of the game when they went back to basics.

Instead of focusing on offensive-sets and just going through the motions in an almost robotic state, Richard Bland used a dribble-drive attack to great effectiveness in opening up lanes and the outside shot. It all came together for what would be a decisive run just 2:53 into the game.

Avery Ugba started the run when he received a bounce-pass in the low-block, span into the paint and nailed a baby-hook for the first two points of an eventual 23-to-2 run which was finished off by a Bates' offensive rebound and finish, giving the Statesmen all the momentum they would need in a 99-73 win.

"We played the way we really focused on," Statesmen head coach Chuck Moore said after the game. "We wanted to get out in transition. We wanted to guard and we definitely did all of that in the first half ... but overall we played unselfishly and were able to get the ball into the post."

And getting the ball into the post has been a problem of late as the Statesmen (26-2) have been in a swoon over the past two weeks on the offensive end. On far too many possessions, Richard Bland's players had focused on a one-on-one type of game and got away from what had worked in the past.

However, against the Storm (1-24), Richard Bland made sure to share the basketball and not force up contested looks with the results showcased on the scoreboard. On the night, the Statesmen racked up a total of 26 assists on 41 field goal attempts with just 14 turnovers.

Leading the effort was diminutive 5-foot-7 point guard Trayvonte Brown who found open teammates both on penetrating drives to the basket or sending good entry passes down to the low-blocks. At the end of the gmae, it was Brown leading Richard Bland with a game-high seven assists while also adding five thefts, six rebounds and 6 points.

"We moved the ball and we kinda got away from our set-plays and got back to our main staple offense," Moore explained. "To be able to move the ball, to get people moving and looking for the little things ... once we did that, our shooting percentage shot up."

And it surely helped the Statesmen to have a 6-foot-8 forward playing at the top of his game in the post. While Tidewater tried multiple defenses with zone on the back-end and man-to-man up top, neither defense could effectively halt the dominating presence of Ugba.

Every time Ugba received a pass, it was little doubt that would fall through nylon. For much of this season, Ugba has shown an ability to be one of two players: a dominating force or a shadow of a big-man. On this night, Ugba had his way en route to a 21-point, eight-rebound effort on 10-of-11 shooting from the field.

"He's a high-motor guy and you can normally tell if he's on or if he's off," Moore said. "But if he can bring that type of energy to every game, it definitely takes us to another level."

Although against Tidewater, it was Bates who brought his own game to a level not before seen for Richard Bland.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Entering the contest averaging just 6.4 points per game and not having scored more than 16 all year, the 6-foot-4 forward dropped in a season-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Yet, it was not just his scoring which impressed.

Bates' energy level remained high throughout the contest in which he deftly positioned himself into weak-spots in the Storm's defense while also finding open teammates for easy baskets as he finished with five assists on the night.

"I was just out there playing the game," Bates said after the game. "I was just out here trying to get the win and help my teammates play within themselves and get better."

Added Moore, "He was more active today, but it's better late than never. We've been asking for that for 27 games and he earned it ... I hope he continues carrying that type of energy and that type of movement he brought to our offense."

And it was his movement which helped put Micah Thomas back on track as well. While the sharpshooter had struggled of late by trying to do too much and force up shots, he allowed the game to come to him against Tidewater, tallying 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.

It was the type of game Thomas needed after averaging just 9.8 points per game over previous five contests in which defenses looked to take him completely out of Richard Bland's offense. But it was also a game the team needed after the debacle on Sunday left them scratching their heads.

"We're not going to panic for one loss," Moore said. "We didn't complicate the game ... we just played our kind of basketball."

Playing their kind of basketball has led to immediate sustained success for the program and after seeing what can happen when they stray away from it over the weekend, Richard Bland has the look of a team ready to make a deep postseason run after a wake-up call sounded the alarms.

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