NRHS boys prepare for winter

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield


Continuing their busy off-season in preparation for the winter, the Nansemond River Warriors’ boys’ basketball team was one of 16 squads participating each Wednesday in September and October in the Hampton Roads Fall League held at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.

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Nansemond River won 12 of its 13 games, losing only to Bruton before the start of tournament play. In the tourney, the Warriors rallied from 11 points down in the second half to beat Woodside 51-40 in the first round. They then took care of business in the quarterfinals against Western Branch, 45-38.

A tough matchup with John Marshall, last year’s Fall League champion, who reached the Group AAA State Championship before falling to Henrico, awaited the Warriors in the semifinals.

In a back-and-forth physical battle with John Marshall, Nansemond River outlasted the Justices, 61-50 behind the talented trio of senior swingman Devon Oakley, senior center Daniel Wallace and junior wing Scott Spencer. The Warriors’ deep rotation, length and up-tempo style served them well.

“When we play with energy, focused and in the framework of ‘team first,’ we are really good, NR coach Ed Young said. “Throughout the Fall League, we showed we don’t have to rely on one or two people to win. Of course, that means others who aren’t usually asked to play major roles will have to step up throughout the course of the regular season.”

“As for execution, we showed we can score in bunches, especially off our defense, and we handle full-court pressure better than I thought we would,” he added.

The Warriors had a rematch with Bruton for the championship, and though they would inch close on several occasions against the Panthers, they were ultimately unable to overtake them.

The Warriors fell to Bruton, 47-37 capping a 12-2 record throughout the league. Oakley finished with 17 points. Wallace chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. Spencer scored seven.

“Got to get better on defense,” Young said. “With our length, we can play multiple defenses, but right now we don’t play any of them with purpose. We tend to do just enough to get by the level of our opponent, and when we play the smart, quicker and tougher teams, we struggle.”

In their loss to Bruton, one statistic was glaring: free-throw shooting. The Panthers made 13-of-17 compared to just 9-for-19 by Nansemond River. Increasing those opportunities at the charity stripe and minimizing their opponents’ will be a priority moving forward.

“Better execution in the half-court will also be a focus,” Young said. “We were a very good rebounding team last season, but we are nowhere near excellent in that category so far, so that will be emphasized in practice. And we are not very good from the free-throw line.”

Nansemond River opens up the season at home Dec. 3 against Grassfield. With three potential Division I prospects on the roster, the Warriors are expected to be one of the top-ranked teams in the state in 4A and are sure to have a target on their backs.

“Bottom line is we have some good talent,” Young said. “But we need to step up our work ethic, focus and commitment to detail or we will not reach our goal of playing into March.”