Warriors put down Bulldogs

Published 11:30 pm Friday, February 17, 2012

Nansemond River High School’s Warriors defend their goal during a game against cross-town rival King’s Fork High School on Thursday. The Warriors won the game 72-64, earning a berth in the finals of the Southeastern District tournament on Friday, where they beat Great Bridge High School for the championship.

By Matthew Hatfield

When two rivals that have done their share of winning get together, it’s usually an intense, must-see battle, and a large crowd comes out to support.

That was, indeed, the case when the No. 2-seeded Nansemond River Warriors and No. 3 King’s Fork Bulldogs got together in Suffolk on Thursday night at King’s Fork High School in the Southeastern District Tournament semifinals.

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Both teams won on the other’s home court during the regular season. Still steaming about the 59-57 loss to the Bulldogs in January, Nansemond River came out on fire, converting 11 of their first 13 shots and building a 19-point lead in the first quarter. They were never threatened for the rest of the game, winning 72-64.

“We came out way different than I thought we would,” Nansemond River coach Ed Young said. “With nine days off since the last time we played, I thought we would come out flat, rushing and rusty.”

“We did some different things in practice, went over some old things, added some things to keep their minds fresh, even shortened practice and took a few days off here and there,” he added. “We really felt that the last time we played them at home, we didn’t give our fans the proper effort, and they out-hustled us on our floor. Tonight, the kids handled the game plan so well, and everyone played to their capability.”

Trailing for only 45 seconds early in the first quarter, Nansemond River (19-4) responded as fast as a speeding bullet behind the brilliant play of point guard Dontrell Brite, who got in the lane at will and had seven points and six assists in the first quarter alone. The recipient of four of those assists was Ed Drew, scoring eight points in the opening period.

“I wanted to help set the tone and let everyone out there know that we were coming out serious, but at the same time excited and looking to have fun,” Drew said. “We wanted to play with heart, confidence and not scared. It’s about staying hungry and humble, and in the end, we’re glad we came out victorious.”

King’s Fork, which played most of the first half without Army signee Zach Johnson as he sat on the bench with two fouls, missed on 14 of its first 15 shots. Johnson didn’t score his first field goal until the fourth quarter.

However, the Bulldogs were able to make things interesting after Byron Taylor’s jumper early in the third quarter cut the deficit to nine. That was when junior Kendric Washington came through for the Warriors with six straight points, pushing the lead back up to 17. Nansemond River increased its advantage to as many as 21 early in the fourth quarter.

“I had to get rebounds and make layups, because those are easy shots and you can’t afford to let those slip out,” Washington said. “We had to get back at them for winning on our floor, but we didn’t want to do it in a disrespectful manner. We just had to play our best to beat them in the way that we know how, which is teamwork, sharing the ball and giving it all we’ve got.”

Shannon Evans was the high scorer for NR, with 20 points. Brite added 12 points and eight assists. Washington chipped in 11 points and six boards, and Jay Melendez contributed seven points and nine boards. Taylor led KF with 18 points, 12 coming in the fourth period. Jacorey Smith and C.J. Hailes scored in double-figures, as well, with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

King’s Fork (16-8) will now play in Monday’s Eastern Region Tournament against Norcom at 6 p.m. at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk.

Nansemond River’s opponent for the regional playoffs on Monday is also set, as the Warriors will stay in Suffolk to play Maury in a 6 p.m. game at King’s Fork High School.

The Warriors were set to tangle with Great Bridge in Friday night’s Southeastern District Tournament Championship. Check Sunday’s paper for compete details about that game.