Warrior shines in big game

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nansemond River’s Shannon Evans cuts into the lane in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s Eastern Region Tournament first round game against visiting Kecoughtan. Evans scored nine points as Nansemond River beat Hampton’s Warriors 51-45, avenging a loss to Kecoughtan at the same point of the postseason three years ago.

Nansemond River hung on to a slender lead all the way through the second half to prevail, 51-45, over visiting Kecoughtan Monday night in the opening round of the Eastern Region boys basketball tournament.

Guards, whether with long-range shooting or with slashing moves to the basket, have led Nansemond River (21-5) all season.

NR’s leading guard, senior Ashton Moore, led the Warriors with 17 points. Moore was clutch, burying three three-pointers, seemingly each at a point where the game could’ve swung to either side.

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What pushed Nansemond River past Kecoughtan and into the last eight of the Eastern Region, though, was some serious help inside, namely thanks to 6-foot-5 center John Joyce.

“I was just playing my game. I usually just try to keep my energy up on the defensive end and the offense follows. That’s what Coach says,” Joyce said.

Joyce had his usual fine effort, and some stats to go with it, on the defensive side. He also turned in 14 points on the offensive end at the exact right time for Nansemond River.

Joyce led Suffolk’s Warriors, facing Hampton’s Warriors, out to a confident start. Starting with a smooth 17-foot jumper then going to work closer to the hoop, Joyce scored eight of NR’s first 10 points of the night.

NR kept going to a 13-9 lead after a period. Nansemond River took superb care of the ball, starting with a 5-1 turnover advantage in the first eight minutes. Overall, NR finished the game forcing 13 Kecoughtan turnovers versus giving up only five.

Joyce tossed in a jump hook, turning from the low post toward the baseline for the shot, and Shannon Evans made a three-pointer for the last points of the first half and a 25-15 NR advantage.

Kecoughtan, bigger and stronger on the inside, used that strength to start the third period with an 8-1 run. At one point late in the third period, Kecoughtan had outrebounded NR 17-4 in the new half.

Kecoughtan moved within a point, 32-31, before Moore drained a three on NR’s last possession of the quarter.

Moore hit from beyond the arc again for a 38-33 NR lead. With Kecoughtan trying to double-team Moore each time he had the ball, even 30-plus feet from the hoop, he still made another three from deep on the right wing for a 41-35 NR lead.

Nansemond River had everything in control when Dontrell Brite shook past his defender, slashed into the lane and hit a pull-up jumper giving NR a 47-38 margin with just over a minute left.

With a three-point play followed by foul shots after stealing the ensuing Warrior inbounds pass, Kecoughtan suddenly cut NR’s lead to 48-43 with 0:44 left.

Kecoughtan regained the ball still down five but missed a three-point try. Brite dribbled down court and attacked the hoop, putting up an unnecessary shot. A loose ball in the lane followed and Joyce, with what simply counted as his eighth rebound of the game, forced a jump ball that saved the ball for NR.

Brite made a pair of free throws with 0:23 left and a 50-43 margin was safe the rest of the way.

“We knew we wanted to get off to a hot start and get the momentum early,” Moore said.

“I kind of had to take over a little there, with being a senior for this team,” Moore said, “but everyone made lots of key plays, Shannon, Dontrell and John, especially, he played great. He played his butt off tonight.”

The Warriors avenged a loss to Kecoughtan, also when NR was the No. 1 Southeastern seed and Kecoughtan was No. 4 from the Peninsula District, in the first round of regions three years ago.

The Warriors move into the quarterfinals and a meeting with Booker T. Washington (21-4) Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Norfolk Scope.