Royals' Season A Learning Curve
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 28, 2014, 09:07
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — As Brian Fullman released a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 54 seconds remaining, the rest of the Royals' bench looked to the scoreboard and saw the finality of the season in what was displayed.
One missed free-throw by Henrico's Tyriq Branch led to the buzzer sounding, concluding Prince George's season in the Regionals Quarterfinals in a 97-54 dismantling. As the Royals' players went through the handshake line and walked up the steps — each one a symbolic gesture of the hurdles they climbed to get to this point — toward a makeshift locker room inside Hermitage High School, every face had the look of a team stunned by what had happened on the court.
Prince George never once held a lead against Henrico and trailed by 12 points just 2:13 into the game, putting them in a come-from-behind position much like they endured all season. And on two occasions, the Royals executed what looked to be the type of run which could propel a team to win but Henrico had an answer each time, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half and answering a 6-0 Royals spurt with a 15-0 run themselves.
It was the type of runs defending state champions make while leaving their opponents confused and bewildered on how to stop it.
"It was pretty good to get here to regionals," Prince George forward Quincy Cunningham said after the loss. "We had a bad season and shocked a lot of people ... we felt like we could make some noise, but I guess we just came out not mentally prepared. It was a heart-breaker we had to end the season like this."
A 43-point loss, Prince George's largest margin of defeat this season, wasn't the ideal way for the season to end, but it does little to take away from what the Royals accomplished this season.
With just four seniors lining the roster — two of them injured for much of the year and just one of them a starter — the Royals resembled a young team with plenty of potential. On paper, Prince George had everything one wants in a basketball team: height, shooting and ball-handling guards.
Yet, through the first two games of the season it became obvious this season would be one filled with learning. In their season-opener, the Royals fell behind 12-0 to Manchester and never recovered in a 13-point loss. Then, against H.D. Woodson, the Royals fought back from a 14-point deficit to take a one-point lead before a defensive lapse cost them the game.
However, through all the heart-breaks and disappointing finishes, Prince George began to improve little by little prior to the Conference 12 Tournament. It was there the No. 5 seeded and seven-win Royals defeated Manchester and No. 1 seed Meadowbrook to clinch a spot in Regionals for the first time in over a decade.
"We are not going to settle for just being happy we are here," head coach Travis Carr said after his team's season-ending loss. "We were looking to win this game and move on ... Yea, it would have been an upset because of our record, but we know what we're capable of and we showed that last week. And we are going to show it next year, too."
And Carr has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about Prince George's chances next season.
It starts with the likely improvements of both his ball-handlers in Cory Hill and BJ Knight. During the early part of the season, Hill was a go-to scorer for the Royals. However, as the season wore on, he struggled in deciding when to either take a shot or try to set-up a teammate.
But his promise showed itself once again during the Royals' playoff stretch in which he showed a tremendous ability to create off-the-dribble and limit turnovers in the open court. The same can be said about Knight who developed into a dangerous 3-point shooting threat for Prince George over the course of the season.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"As a coach, you want to develop your players and see them get better over the course of the year," Carr said. "We're still building. We have a lot of guys and our expectations are high as they continue to grow."
Perhaps, no where are those expectations greater than for the type of future impact Savonte Chappell can make on the basketball court. The 6-foot-5 sophomore forward was almost unstoppable at certain points during the season, using his polished post-moves to pivot his way around defenders for easy lay-ins.
However, when that was no longer an option, Chappell used his brute strength to finish among traffic as he often dominated more mature players. The sophomore even utilized a 12-foot jump-shot against Henrico which will only further stretch opposing defenses next season.
"Of course we know his potential, but I think he's just realizing it himself," Carr said of Chappell earlier this season. "But he knows he has to work hard and the kid has a great work-ethic."
The same can be said for a Prince George team which will have players like Quincy Cunningham, Shonquez Henry, Chappell, Hill and Jenkins in the fold for next season. With a little bit of work and taking the tough as a learning experience, the Royals could be a team to watch next season.