Warriors bring home the title!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2003

In late 2002, the Nansemond River football team was the Cinderella team of the Southeastern district. After winning three games in two seasons, the Warriors charged out of the gates in September and October, upsetting district rivals Lakeland, Deep Creek, and Oscar Smith.

But on Oct. 25, River got a harsh wakeup call from the perennial district powerhouse: Western Branch. The Bruins defeated the Warriors 35-7 (their only district loss of the season), ending their playoff hopes.

Over the past few days, the opposite situation occurred during the Southeastern district basketball tournament. Though the Bruin cagers were seeded sixth in the tournament, they stormed into action, upsetting district rivals Indian River and Lakeland.

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But on Friday night, Branch got its own wakeup call from the from the perennial district powerhouse: Nansemond Riv-er. The Warriors defeated the Bruins 60-56 in the tournament final, giving River its first district crown since 1996. Marquie Cooke (the Warriors’ only first-team All-District selection) scored 17 points to cap off a tournament-MVP-winning performance, and Fred Spratley has his best game of the tournament, knocking in 16 points.

After a three-point play by Robby Goodman gave the Bruins a 13-12 lead with 6:21 left in the first half, the Warriors made their first offensive strike of the game. Spratley hit a jumper from the top of the key, and Cooke banked home a breakaway layup. Alvester Franklin banged out a three-point play, and Spratley buried his second three-pointer of the night for a 22-13 lead.

Eric Winbourne broke Branch’s scoring drought with a jumper, but Spratley, Cooke and Franklin scored nine more points to end the half ahead 31-20.

Jovan Wells brought the momentum back to the Bruins in the first half, as he and Cordarrius Neal swished three consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to two. Cooke hit a long shot of his own, but Neal and Winbourne scored to get within one with 3:21 left.

Spratley charged through the Bruin defense for a layup, and Cooke hit a jumper to re-extend the lead. Then an 8-4 run in the remainder kept the Warriors ahead 46-38 as the final quarter began.

Cooke and Spratley gave the Warriors a 50-40 lead in the first minute, and the Warrior offense started to stall. Winbourne scored a pair of jumpers to get as close as 52-46 with 4:18 to play, but the Bruins were held scoreless for nearly two minutes. Winbourne and Vince Hill dropped in three free throws to get to 54-49 at the 2:10 mark, but Franklin hit a layup with 1:27 left and Dennis Conley scored four points in the final minute to ice the championship.

The Warriors will host an Eastern Region tournament game (an honor they received by winning the regular season title) on Tuesday.