Warriors steal game from Hickory

Published 3:21 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ashton Moore and Morris Johnson combined for 49 points on Tuesday to lead Nansemond River out of a three-game losing skid and to a 72-65 win over Southeastern District foe Hickory at Nansemond River.

The Warriors and Hawks traded the lead throughout the night until the Warriors took control with a 17-3 run in the fourth quarter.

Nansemond River’s pressing defense was the difference. The Warriors did a good job of forcing a fast pace and Hawk turnovers for most of the game, but NR turned it up even more in the last period.

With Hickory lead 45-43 going into the fourth period, NR forced 10 Hawk turnovers and turned most of those errors into easy baskets. Moore scored 14 points in the fourth period. Nansemond River head coach Ed Young said the fourth quarter was, “by far our biggest quarter of the year.”

“We just picked up our intensity and our defensive pressure. We worked as a team with our rotating and communicating,” said Moore.

Moore led the way on NR’s full-court press, then with most of the scoring in transition. In the Warriors’ half-court offense, it was all about getting the ball inside to Johnson, who at 6-foot-2, still serves as NR’s center.

Moore finished with 25 points, eight assists and seven steals. Johnson had 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Hickory controlled the tempo of the game in the opening period, but with Johnson playing well in the paint, the Warriors got out to an 18-10 lead and led 18-15 after one period. Johnson scored 11 points in the quarter.

NR kept going to a 24-17 lead early in the second period before a rash of Warrior turnovers let Hickory rally.

Hot long-range shooting by Hickory’s Michael Foley helped the Hawks, too. Foley carried the Hawks with 19 points, including three three-pointers, in the first half. His trey with 0:11 left made it a 29-29 halftime score.

NR’s problem became quick shots coming out of the half. The Warriors made only 1-of-10 field goals in the first three minutes and Hickory built a 37-31 lead.

The Warriors answered with a 9-2 run, capped by a turnaround, 12-foot jumper by Johnson to put NR up 40-39.

Hickory regained the lead and remained in front heading to the fourth period. Hickory last lead of the night was 48-47 with 7:19 remaining.

After a steal by the Warriors, Moore drained a tough jumper along the baseline to put NR up 51-49 with 6:02 left. A trey by Moore made it 58-51 NR with 3:52 to go. The Warriors, mostly because of their defense, kept going to a 64-51 lead with 2:51 left.

“We’d scouted (Hickory) a couple times and figured they would be susceptible to pressure,” said Young.

“We just needed this game. We had to have it and we showed that tonight. We played as a team tonight,” Moore said.

Foley finished with 25 points for Hickory. The turnover difference was 13-12 in NR’s favor at halftime, but 15-5 in NR’s favor in the second half. Hickory shot 27-of-48 (56.3 percent) from the field for the night; but for most of the fourth quarter, just getting a shot was a challenge.

Brandon Debblay had seven points, five rebounds and four steals for the Warriors. Debblay drew specific praise from his coach for his defensive game.

Next up for Nansemond River (3-3, 3-3) is the SMOC Holiday Classic in Reidsville, N.C.

The Warriors have a special field trip lined up for their way down to the tournament. On Monday night, the Warriors will get to see Rutgers play North Carolina at the Dean Dome.

On Tuesday, the Warriors will face defending North Carolina Div. 2A state champions Bishop McGuiness in the first of two games in Reidsville.