Warriors comeback falls short

Published 10:57 pm Monday, February 18, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield


The script was nearly identical. Three years ago, Nansemond River Warriors basketball was a No. 4 seed for the Eastern Region Tournament and traveled to top-seeded Landstown, champions of the Beach District, and pulled a stunning upset, 62-58 to end the Eagles’ 17-game winning streak when they were ranked fourth in the state at the time.

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Fast forward to 2013, and the opening round of the regional basketball playoffs pitted Nansemond River heading to Virginia Beach to take on the Eagles yet again, hoping to pull another upset and return to the regional quarterfinals for a fourth straight year. Trailing only 32-30 at the half, the Warriors were within striking distance, but came up just short, falling 64-58.

The Warriors were doomed by a third quarter they’d like to forget in which they got outscored 19-8, including 7-0 over the final 2:08 to fall behind double-figures going to the fourth quarter. In coach Ed Young’s mind, that eight-minute stretch of basketball led to his team’s demise, and their season finishing up at 17-8 overall.

“At halftime, I told them we played a lackluster first half, but we’re only down two and OK. We made a couple adjustments and then came out in the third quarter and gave nothing. Even though we had a whole quarter to go, I thought we lost it in the third quarter,” Young said.

“Hats off to Landstown. They got all the easy buckets, they won most of the hustle plays and got more lay-ups than we attempted. I thought we had them well-scouted, but we just didn’t execute. That third quarter put me in a daze for a while.”

Four different players scored in double-figures for Landstown, which got 19 assists compared to only 11 turnovers on the evening as they moved their record to 21-5 overall. Nansemond River finished up with 10 assists compared to 14 turnovers, though only one came in the fourth quarter when they would make one last valiant effort at a comeback.

In the fourth quarter, 6-foot-5-inch senior forward and All-Southeastern District First Team performer Ed Drew scored six of his 20 points. Junior guard Devon Oakley had seven of his 12 points in the game’s final period, including a three-pointer with 1:16 remaining that brought the Warriors within six at 59-53.

Landstown got a basket and sank three free-throws in the final minute to keep the Warriors from moving any closer.

Afterwards, Young reflected on the 2012-13 campaign, one that plenty of ups and downs.

“On the court, we were 19-6 and the year was great. Only six teams had as many wins or more than us,” he commented.

“We’re still pretty good, but what I’m mad about is we started out 15-2 and ended the year 4-4, so that tells you something right there. That’s average, mediocre and not Nansemond River basketball. It all starts with me and I’ve got to find a reason to fix it, but we’re going to fix that and we’re not a .500 team.”

Only two seniors in the starting lineup, Drew and forward Kendric Washington, depart, giving them optimism going into the off-season.

Since the Eastern Region Tournament moved to the Norfolk Scope in 2010, the Warriors were the only boys basketball team to make it there three consecutive years. That streak is now over, but Young vows they will return.

“Next year, we’ve got a great nucleus coming back and I think we can make a run for it, but they’ve got to be committed individually, and then we’ll put it together as a team. Last year, I said we won’t go to Scope and unfortunately I was truthful because we’re not. We’ll be heard of and we will be there next year, one way or the other. With me or without me, they’ll be at the Scope next year.”