Warriors grab third straight tourney

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 23, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Ever wonder why no one can stop Sammy Sosa?

Since the legendary &uot;Race to Roger Maris&uot; with Mark McGwire in 1998, the Chicago Cubs slugger banged out seasons of 63, 50, 64, and 49 home runs from 1999 to 2002.

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Hundreds of pitchers around the league have had half a decade to think of a way to get the ball past him. But even with so much time and so many people at work, Sosa’s proven an unsolvable problem; he cranked out 40 round-trippers last year and helped his team to within a win of the World Series.

The moral? No matter how many times a certain opponent is faced, no matter how much time the opposition has to prepare, some competitors just can’t be beaten. It’s the concept that allowed Nansemond River to march past Lakeland 74-70 in the finals of the Southeastern District basketball tournament Saturday night at Oscar Smith. It was the Warriors’ third victory this season over their crosstown rivals, and second in three weeks.

Marquie Cooke dropped in 30 points on his way to becoming the first player in district history to be named to the All-Tournament Team all four years of his high school career, as well as becoming only the third player to win the tournament Most Valuable Player Award more than once. He’s in exclusive company; D.J. Dunbar of Churchland won it in 1994 and 1995, and former NBA superstar Alonzo Mourning, then an Indian River center, took home the award from 1986 to 1988.

&uot;I can’t express how this feels,&uot; he said. &uot;We had to come out tonight, stay focused and fear no one.&uot; Cooke’s teammate Dennis Conley was also named to the All-Tournament squad, as were Lakeland’s Eric Ruffin and Mike Camp. Lakeland won the tournament Sportsmanship award for the first time in school history.

Cooke’s 30 points put him 56 away from Antoine Willie’s school record of 2,114. &uot;I can see (the record),&uot; Cooke said. &uot;I’ve been seeing it. We’ve got a lot more games to play.&uot;

The Warriors opened regional competition Monday night at home against Virginia Beach’s Landstown, not completed at press time. By finishing second in the district, the Cavaliers also received a bid, although location and opponent had not been determined at press time.

Led by 17 first-half points from Cooke, NR charged to a 42-30 halftime lead, one that Cooke extended with 15 with a three-pointer just 12 seconds into the third quarter. The game went back and forth for the next six minutes until Ruffin and Jeremiah Billups broke loose for two layups in 18 seconds, cutting the lead to 55-47 to open the final period.

Ruffin, playing with a sprained hand, swished a three-pointer and Mark Plenty a jumper to cut the lead to three in the first minute. Cooke drained a three-pointer, but Plenty hit two free throws and took an assist from Josh Russell to sink another jumper. Another nip-and-tuck round ended with the Warriors up 67-61 with 3:30 to play.

Ruffin fired a pair of assists to Corey Davis, getting to 67-65 with 2:11 on the clock. Plenty picked off an errant Warrior pass and tossed to Davis to tie the score with 1:08 left.

Cooke was fouled twice in 13 seconds, and hit all four free throws. Kenny Reid hit one for Lakeland, but Russell missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game with 25 seconds left, and Cooke and Keith Josey sank the three free throws that decided the contest.