Warriors brush off Braves

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

Run the floor, play unselfishly and defend. The Nansemond River Warriors’ boys’ basketball team had a simple plan it used Tuesday night to beat the Indian River Braves 67-36.

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During a 13-minute stretch of the second and third quarters, Nansemond River outscored Indian River 22-5 to break open the game. The Warriors forced 11 turnovers in that span, leading to numerous transition lay-ups, and they were able to get offensive contributions from several different areas, with five different players scoring at least eight points.

“That was our most consistent defensive stretch to this point in the season,” said coach Ed Young, whose Warriors moved to 3-0 overall. “I told them that in the first half we weren’t finishing the defensive series, and if we finish it we’re going to get some run-outs. Be patient and we can play our game.”

The usual suspects made their presence felt offensively for the Warriors. Senior wing Devon Oakley filled the stat sheet with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Junior wing Scott Spencer tallied 13 points, four boards and five assists. Senior center Daniel Wallace added nine points, a game-high 13 rebounds, four assists and five blocks.

Another lift was provided by senior guard Jalen Warren, who last season played a limited role off the bench. Now starting at the point, Warren kept his mistakes to a minimum and scored a career-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

“I just tried to play with a lot of confidence. I thought it was my day to shine and step up as a guard,” said Warren. “The main thing was to take care of the ball, knock down the open shots and play defense. That’s my role on the team.”

Through three contests this season, the Warriors have started eight of their 13 players. Making his first start was senior forward Marvin Branch.

Nansemond River had to slow down Indian River’s two leading scorers, senior guards Breon Heckstall and Reggie Hodges. The pair came in averaging nearly 15 points per game apiece, but the Warriors’ alert defense held them to 16 points total on 5-of-28 shooting from the field.

“We knew Hodges was a pretty tough lefty shooter that needed to be contained,” Young said. “We’ve had a different person in that spot every game so far, and I had a gut feeling that Marvin would be our best option to cover Hodges, and he did a great job on him. And I thought Devon did a pretty good job of rushing Heckstall into a lot of shots.”

Nansemond River limited Indian River to 13-of-57 shooting from the field, and the Braves made only 2 of 14 three-point attempts. The Warriors came out in the second half with a different level of intensity and aggressiveness. Statistically, it showed in the form of 13 steals and 10 blocks by night’s end.

“At half-time, we went in the locker room and said we’ve got to crunch down on defense. We had to lock up their two main guys (Hodges and Heckstall); the rest of it would take care of itself, and the points would come. We also talked about making the extra pass. If a guy is open, swing the ball so he can get a good shot,” Warren recalled.

“We still have a lot of work to do on free-throws. Slowly but surely I think we’ll get there, though. We’re also starting to cut down on the turnovers from the first game and take care of the ball better.”

Freshman K.J. Davis chipped in eight points off the bench, six during an 11-1 run late in the second quarter that pushed the lead to double-figures. As a team, Nansemond River had 18 assists on 27 field goals while shooting 56.3% from the floor.

Nansemond River closes out the week at Hickory on Thursday and at home against Lakeland on Friday.