Warriors welcome, then defeat, Aussie guests

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, January 7, 2010

For the fourth straight season, Nansemond River welcomed a high school basketball team from Australia into its gym. For the fourth straight time, the Warriors proved too athletic in getting a victory over their Aussie opponents.

On Wednesday, Nansemond River used a 17-0 run in the second quarter to go on and defeat Kookaburras 74-54.

For most of the second half, Kookaburras, from Melbourne, played toe to toe with the Warriors and cut NR’s lead down as far as 11 points on a couple occasions. Overall though, the Warriors were too quick defensively and too athletic, especially when it came to grabbing rebounds.

Nansemond River forward Morris Johnson, who at 6-foot-2 was three or four inches shorter than the two best post players for Kookaburras, still dominated the glass on both ends. Johnson finished the game with 11 points and 18 rebounds.

“I look at it like it’s my job. I have to be the big guy on this team. It’s my job and the coaches tell me I have to get a double-double every game,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s been doing just that in most games this season for the Warriors (6-5) and Wednesday evening certainly was the first time Johnson’s came up with big rebounding numbers even while being a few inches shy of a team’s usual “big guy.”

Early on Wednesday, the Warriors didn’t need any rebounding as sweet shooting from NR’s guards gave them a comfortable lead.

In his first varsity start, Shannon Evans made a three-pointer and another long jumper to score five of NR’s first nine points. Ashton Moore made three-pointers on back-to-back NR possessions to give NR a 17-8 lead. Moore, NR’s junior point guard, had 10 points in the first quarter and NR led 19-12 going to the second period.

Unlike the previous Australian teams to visit Nansemond River, Kookaburras focused on getting the ball inside rather than living with three-point shooting. Kookaburras successfully got the ball in the lane through much of the game, but too many misses in the first half, even from point-blank range, allowed NR to build up a big lead.

With Kookaburras still struggling to make shots, then with Johnson’s rebounding making a bigger difference, NR held Kookaburras scoreless for the first 6:06 of the second quarter.

The Warriors kept draining jumpers and a three-pointer by Moore made it 19 straight NR points and a 36-12 lead.

NR led 36-18 at halftime. Johnson had 11 boards in the half and Malcolm Coleman, a 6-foot-2 senior, added five rebounds and two blocked shots. Moore led NR with 15 points in the half.

Kookaburras converted more of its shots in the paint in the second half. Dylan Jones, Kookaburras’ tallest player at 6-foot-6, made the first four baskets of the half for his team and point guard Darby Walmsley played with a ton of energy and hustle in the second half.

Patrick Fitzgerald’s offensive rebound and putback basket brought Kookaburras within 48-37 late in the period, but a three-pointer by Moore answered for the Warriors.

Just after Moore’s three, Xavier Fitzgerald’s drove into the lane, scored and was fouled. On Fitzgerald’s hoop, apparently “And one!” has the exact same meaning, and doesn’t really even sound that different, in an Australian dialect. Kookaburras was fired up heading to the fourth period, but still trailing 55-41.

With Kookaburras still within shouting distance, a three-pointer by Evans and three buckets in the paint by Johnson helped the Warriors put the game out of reach.

Moore finished with 20 points and four assists. Evans had 14 points. Brian Clarke, usually a top scorer for the Warriors, had nine points and seven assists.

It was the fifth game of a six-game tour of the Carolinas and Virginia by Kookaburras. Jones had 12 points. Walmsley had 10 points and five assists. Xavier Fitzgerald had 10 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Kookaburras had eight players on its team.

Nansemond River goes back to more local competition on Friday night. The Warriors visit Great Bridge (6-1 SED) at 7:30 p.m.