Warrior season ends in unfamiliar place

Published 11:30 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

For the last seven basketball seasons, Nansemond River had clinched a spot in the Eastern Region Tournament by being the regular-season champs of the Southeastern District.

That streak was clear to be over this season awhile ago, but being one of the four district teams to make the regional tournament still seemed likely.

The Warriors’ season came to a quick end Friday night at King’s Fork as Great Bridge, the No. 5 seed in the tourney, beat Nansemond River (16-7) for the second time out of three meetings this season. Led by Breonte Webber’s 19 points, 17 of which he tallied in the second half, the Wildcats claimed a spot in the regional tournament with a 71-55 win.

Email newsletter signup

Neither team led by more than nine points until Great Bridge pulled away in the final minute. A steal, breakaway and three-point play by Webber gave the Wildcats a decisive 64-53 lead with 0:45 remaining.

Throughout the game, shooting was what let the Warriors down. Nansemond River managed only 27.4 percent (17 of 62) shooting from the field and 14.3 percent (2 of 14) shooting from three-point range.

Despite those stats, the Warriors had chances to take control of the game. After the teams grinded to a 6-6 tie by the 3:10 mark of the first period, three-pointers by Nate Nicholson and Dion Bivens gave the Warriors a lead and NR remained in front with a 19-11 lead early in the second period.

Eight straight Great Bridge points erased the Warrior lead as the Wildcats reversed Nansemond River’s usual strength and used it against the Warriors. Great Bridge’s quickness and full-court defense resulted in six fast-break points in the 8-0 run and Warrior turnovers would be a problem the rest of the way as Great Bridge forced 19 NR turnovers.

Led by 10 points from David Long and nine by Bivens, the Warriors took a 28-26 lead to halftime.

Great Bridge edged back in front early in the third period before a 9-0 NR run put the Warriors up 41-35 with two minutes to go in the third. Back-to-back steals by Bivens led to a lay-up for Long, then a three-point play for himself.

The Warriors couldn’t keep the momentum going because they couldn’t stop Webber, a slender, slashing guard. Webber scored five of seven GB points to end the third period and the Wildcats regained the lead, 42-41, going to the fourth period.

The Wildcats led throughout the last eight minutes. Six straight points gave Great Bridge a 53-45 lead with 4:17 to go.

From that Wildcat rally on, the later the game got, the more the Warriors seemed to rush and force difficult shots.

The Warriors fought back to a two-possession game a few times down the stretch. Dontrell Silver’s steal and lay-up made it 55-50 and NR was within 58-53 with 1:03 remaining.

One last Wildcat run, with Webber’s three-point play included in it, put the game out of reach. Center Shane Popelka had 13 points for the Wildcats and made 9 of 10 free throws. Jerrell Spellman scored 13 points as a substitute.

For the Warriors, Bivens had 17 points, six rebounds and five steals. Long finished with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Shakor Sommers added nine points. Silver had six points and eight assists.