Lady Bruin rally tops Lady Warriors

Published 10:58 pm Friday, February 18, 2011

Nansemond River's Denel Fox scored 16 points, with 10 coming in the second half, in Friday night's Southeastern District Tournament championship game. Western Branch beat the Lady Warriors for the third time this season, 66-57.

After losing both regular season contests versus Western Branch by more than 30 points, the first three quarters of Friday’s Southeastern District Tournament final went as well as Nansemond River’s girls basketball squad could’ve imagined.

The Lady Warriors led the No. 1 Lady Bruins by 10 late in the third period and still by six, 52-46, nearing six minutes to go in the game.

The Lady Bruins were the Southeastern District’s season champs for a good reason though and district Player of the Year Shanese Harris led a 9-0 WB run that continued on into a 66-57 Western Branch win.

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“In the fourth quarter, actually from about six minutes on, we forgot what had gotten us to where we were,” said Nansemond River head coach Calvin Mason, Sr.

“We got too anxious. We started clock-watching some and we wanted the game to be over and we couldn’t afford to do that. We needed to keep playing the game,” Mason said.

Right out of blocks the Lady Bruins raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first 2:02.

Instead of what happened in the two previous meetings, which were all but settled by halftime, the Lady Warriors fought back into the game.

The Lady Warriors went to their strength inside. Junior center Delisha Sharpe scored three of NR’s first four baskets to make it 8-8.

Adding to Sharpe’s play was junior forward Denel Fox. Not usually a top scorer through the season for the Lady Warriors, Fox made shots off of rebounds, off of good feeds from driving teammates and with jumpers from the high post as the Lady Bruins focused on Sharpe at the hoop.

Fox scored in the lane to bring NR within 17-14. A three-point play by Sharpe again cut WB’s lead to three, 22-19.

The Lady Warriors finished the half with a 9-1 run. Kiara Washington’s jumper with 0:07 left made it a 30-30 halftime score.

NR took its first lead of the game with Jenel Cannon’s jumper making it 35-34 with 6:33 to go in the third period.

Holding the lead energized the Lady Warriors on both ends. NR caused a rash of uncharacteristic Lady Bruin turnovers and cashed in, mainly with Fox providing the baskets. Fox hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line for a 48-38 NR lead and the Lady Warriors took a 48-40 lead to the fourth.

The Lady Bruins quickly cut the lead to 48-45. NR answered with hoops inside by Sharpe and Fox.

Harris banked in a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 52-51 NR and her fast-break lay-up put WB up 53-52 with 5:07 left.

Western Branch’s trapping defense took a big toll. The Lady Bruins forced 25 NR turnovers in all on the night. The Lady Warriors couldn’t get back within a one-possession margin through the final four minutes.

“This was the first finals for all of (my players),” Mason said. “From where we were last year, not making it out of the first round, to the finals tonight, I think we’ve come a long way.”

There’s no rest as the Eastern Region Tournament begins Monday. Mason isn’t changing a thing.

“We’ll be at practice Saturday at 6 a.m.. It’ll be a regular practice like always,” he said. “It’s tough. I know some of the girls are hurt. They’re disappointed right now, but they have to understand all the hard work is why they are where they are.”

The Lady Warriors (18-6) will host Hampton, the No. 3 team out of the Peninsula District, Monday at 6 p.m.