Warriors take second place

Published 8:45 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By Matthew Hatfield

Nansemond River’s boys’ basketball team took sole possession of second place in the Southeastern District was on Tuesday, with a hard-fought win on the road over the Western Branch Bruins.

Trailing by 11 at the half, things weren’t looking promising for Nansemond River, especially considering they were without three significant contributors. Out with an ankle injury was junior center Daniel Wallace. Sophomore swingman Scott Spencer didn’t play due to a hand injury. Reserve guard William Goodman, one of the team’s top shooters, missed the game with the flu.

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Somehow, Nansemond River persevered for one of its biggest wins this season.

“Absolutely amazing,” declared Nansemond River head coach Ed Young following a thrilling comeback. “After the game, I was speechless. They went out and proved it — no talking — and got the job done.”

The Warriors were coming off an 18-point home loss to Great Bridge on Friday in one of Young’s more lopsided district defeats. The team turned to two of its most reliable players, 6’5” senior forward Ed Drew and 6’3” junior guard Devon Oakley.

“This game was a great win for us coming back,” Drew said. “We played together as a team, and that was a big key in the second half. I want to thank my guard, Devon, because he really stepped up, became a leader and helped carry us to victory in the fourth quarter. He was clutch.”

Following a lackluster performance against Great Bridge, Drew went to practice the next day and had an exhausting task put in front of him.

“Having to make 100 lay-ups with a seven-pound medicine ball,” Drew explained. “My arms were ready to fall off and my hands turned black, and the backboard was about to turn black, too. I was like, ‘Never again.’ But it helped me a lot, and I thank Coach Young.”

Drew finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. He scored 10 points in the first quarter alone, as the Warriors bolted out to a 15-11 lead. Western Branch, which was 0-for-6 on three-pointers in the first period, quickly warmed up by making three of its next four shots from beyond the arc to go on a 14-2 run to claim a 35-24 advantage at the half.

Nansemond River threw several different defensive looks at Western Branch, yet the Bruins were comfortably in front. Closing the third quarter would prove pivotal for the Warriors.

“We wanted to keep them off balanced,” Young said. “We scouted them a couple times and knew they had shooters, but also thought they had a tendency to over-commit on offense and shoot too much deep. We tried to actually get them to shoot, hopefully get the rebounds, but then they started hitting.”

“I thought if we could get within five or six and cut their shooting down, we’d be okay, because we can score points in bunches, too. If we went into the fourth quarter down 12 or 13, we’re in trouble, but we recognized in some of the scouting reports that they would shoot well early and kind of got out of what they do well.”

After being held to just two points during the second quarter, Drew found the touch again in the third quarter with 10 points to help the Warriors cut the deficit down to 40-36 entering the fourth and final period.

That’s where Oakley, scoreless through three quarters of action, took control. Oakley scored 10 points in a span of less than five minutes and recorded his fifth steal, resulting in a bucket that gave the Warriors a five-point lead during his hot stretch. All 16 of Oakley’s points came in the fourth quarter to shake off the sluggish start in a big way.

“My teammates and coaches continued to believe in me, telling me to take the game over,” said Oakley, who also had 10 rebounds. “I had to step up for my team to get the win. We have a goal of a district title, and a loss in this one would’ve really hurt us, so we felt like we had to pick it up to keep that goal alive.”

Nansemond River puts its 6-1 overall record on the line Thursday night at home in its final game before the holidays against Norview (2-6).