NR matchup is tourney preview

Published 11:39 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield


In a game of runs, the Nansemond River Warriors had the final one to put away the host Indian River Braves in Chesapeake, using a 25-11 spurt to close the contest and grab an imperative 60-50 win on the road.

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Leading the way for the Warriors Tuesday were 6’5” senior forward Ed Drew and 6’3” swingman Scott Spencer. After William Goodman hit his third three-pointer of the game to close Nansemond River’s deficit to one, Drew scored six points on three straight possessions, keying a 9-0 run.

Spencer then scored nine of his game-high 21 points in the fourth and decisive period. The sophomore got his points at the free-throw line, on pull-up jumpers and getting to the basket in transition.

“I feel like I’m getting stronger with the ball, and I’m working on being able to create my own shot,” Spencer said. “People know I can score, but I want to show the coaches and everyone that I’m not just an underclassman. I can make plays under the basket, box out, make hustle plays and do whatever I need to do to help my team be successful.”

In the early going, Nansemond River uncharacteristically had trouble keeping the opposition off the offensive boards. After the Warriors went on a 10-0 run in the opening quarter, capped by a three-pointer from Khalil Carroll, Indian River bounced back by getting numerous second-chance points.

Nine offensive rebounds led to an 18-8 second quarter for Indian River and left the Warriors trailing 26-24 at the break, much to the dismay of coach Ed Young.

“I’m so frustrated in our mental lapses, and we’ve almost changed from an attacking, aggressive, sometimes overly confident team to being very tentative and getting away from what really works for us,” Young said. “We waited an awful long time to bring some energy.”

With the game hanging in the balance and the Warriors struggling to find a way to contain Indian River forwards Jakwon Chambers and Kelvin Powell, who combined for 31 points and 18 rebounds, NR turned to its bench to steady the ship.

“Coach Young conditions us to death, and that’s how we’re able to run on teams,” Spencer said. “Not only are we conditioned, but we also have a bench, too. If somebody gets tired, we can put a new player in there and not have the tempo drop.”

“Marvin Branch gave us good energy defensively. Carroll and Goodman provided us solid minutes offensively,” noted Young.

“When the Spencer kid learns this game, he’s going to be really good. He shows so many flashes. He’ll have to work on his handles more and learn that he has to have a drive to his game other than that jump shot. He’s going be a factor in the next couple years for us.”

After a couple of heart-breaking losses a week ago in games in which they’d held double-digit leads, the Warriors are trying to re-gain some of the early season swagger that had them in the league title hunt. With the postseason right around the corner, they know they must act fast.

“It seems we don’t handle losing very well, and those two losses to Great Bridge and Western Branch are still haunting us,” Young said. “We’ve given them time off, so their legs should be okay. We’re not getting as many easy baskets as we were before. We need scoring, and a few players have gotten out of their roles a little bit. At this time of the year, if you don’t step up your play, you can be bounced rather quickly.”

Nansemond River (15-6, 12-5) will likely open up Southeastern District Tournament play as the No. 3 seed against the same Indian River team, with a regional playoff berth on the line. They go in as the defending district tournament champions, trying to repeat for the first time in the Young era.

“I think we have confidence going into the tournament. The key is just going to be playing smart, hard and together,” a cautious Spencer said. “We’re not looking past anybody at this point, because that’s how there can be an upset. We look at every game as another challenge for us and can’t take any team lightly this time of the year.”