Lady Warriors find a way to win again

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nansemond River advanced through the first round of the Eastern Region girls basketball tournament Monday and did it in a fashion familiar to how the Lady Warriors have prevailed in many important games this season.

Nansemond River’s Sonnae Gibson fights for a rebound against a Hampton opponent Monday night in an Eastern Region Tournament contest.

The Lady Warriors simply found a new, yet testing, way to win, and it was good enough for a 53-50 win over Hampton.

The Lady Warriors survived and advanced despite getting no points from leading scorer junior center Delisha Sharpe. Sharpe averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds a game through the season for the Lady Warriors but was forced to the bench for long stretches of Monday’s game because of foul trouble.

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“Without (Sharpe) on the floor, everyone had to work a little harder,” said Nansemond River head coach Calvin Mason Sr.

“Eleven of our 13 players played tonight, and all at important times. I tell them, you never know when your opportunity will come. That’s why I ask them to work hard every day,” Mason said.

On their home floor, the Lady Warriors (19-6) opened the game in great shape. The Lady Warriors scored on three of their first four trips down the floor and led 6-2 before Hampton gave a serious answer.

The Lady Crabbers rolled off 10 straight points and went on to a 16-8 lead after a period. Sharpe and starting guard Jenel Cannon already had two fouls each. Sharpe picked up her third foul with 5:33 left in the first half.

NR had worked back within 16-12 at that point, and Briana McClain’s three-pointer seconds later brought NR within a point.

Kiara Washington turned an offensive rebound into a 10-foot bank shot and three-point play to tie the game, 18-18. Cannon grabbed an offensive board and scored to put NR up 21-20. The Lady Warriors led 26-23 at halftime.

Sharpe played only a couple minutes of the third period before picking up her fourth foul. For the first time of the night, Hampton took advantage of NR’s main inside player being on the bench. Hampton moved ahead 39-34 late in the third and led 42-37 seconds into the fourth period.

Briana McClain’s driving lay-in tied it, 42-42, and Denel Fox drained a 15-foot foul line jumper to give the Lady Warriors the lead.

Spurred by lots of home-crowd momentum, the Lady Warriors held Hampton again and Cannon followed with a three-pointer for 10 straight NR points.

Hampton cut the lead back to a one-possession game, 51-48 NR, with just under two minutes left. It was still 51-48 when the Lady Warriors lost the ball on a backcourt violation, followed by McClain getting a steal on the ensuing Hampton possession, then the Lady Warriors throwing the ball out of bounds with 0:27 left.

Hampton scored a lay-up and got a timeout with 0:17 left.

The Lady Warriors tried a football pass to near midcourt, but a loose ball was the result. The ball was booted out of bounds, fortunately staying with NR with 0:14 left. Hampton forced a jump ball on the ensuing inbounds pass. The arrow went to NR with 0:11 left.

The Lady Warrior guards played keep away for a few seconds and Hampton fouled with 4.5 seconds left, yet it was Hampton’s sixth foul of the half, not yet putting NR on the foul line.

NR inbounded to McClain in the backcourt and she was fouled with 2.2 seconds left with the foul being called an intentional foul on Hampton.

McClain missed both free throws. Hampton fouled Cannon before the following inbounds pass. Cannon made both.

Hampton still had a dangerous chance to tie. A 20-yard completion down the sideline found a Hampton receiver and an open three-pointer from the right wing barely missed the mark.

“I couldn’t be prouder. I’m more proud of this team than any team I’ve had here,” Mason said.

Point guard Ashante Humphries led the Lady Warriors with 16 points and four steals. Cannon had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. McClain added nine points and six rebounds.

Nansemond River (19-6) advances to the regional quarterfinals Thursday at 4 p.m. at Norfolk Scope.

To play beyond Thursday, the Lady Warriors will have to find something special even by this season’s high standards, because they’ll face nationally-ranked defending state champion Lake Taylor (25-0). The Lady Titans beat Landstown 84-25 Monday night.