It’s strictly business — and personal, too

Published 10:19 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Warriors and Bruins enjoy multi-faceted rivalry

Tuesday night’s showdown in Chesapeake between the boys’ basketball teams from Nansemond River and Western Branch high schools was teeming with evidence fresh and perennial of a special rivalry.

Nansemond River High School junior Josh Covington looks for opportunities against host Western Branch High School on Tuesday evening. Covington scored 19 points, but the Warriors fell 51-47.

Nansemond River High School junior Josh Covington looks for opportunities against host Western Branch High School on Tuesday evening. Covington scored 19 points, but the Warriors fell 51-47.

Neither team shot incredibly well from the floor, but the Warriors and Bruins traded leads during a tight contest, and Western Branch made its free throws in the waning moments to thrill its home crowd with a 51-47 win.

Supercharging an already strong rivalry was the coaching change that the Bruins underwent in the offseason. Paul Hall Sr., longtime right hand man to Warriors coach Ed Young, took the reins of Western Branch’s program after Chris Fuhrmann moved to Hampton Roads Academy.

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Tuesday was the first game pitting Young against Hall, who Young liked to call the Warriors’ associate head coach when they worked together because of his experience and knowledge of the game.

Young said the experience on Tuesday was “very different.”

“I really don’t relish playing them, only because I’m trying to win,” he said. “I’d rather not coach against people that I feel close to.”

Giving his perspective on facing Young, Hall said, “It was tough. The main thing was that we know each other so well that I kind of saw myself saying, ‘Ok, what is he going to do in this situation, then what do I need to do in this situation?’”

And even though they now lead separate programs, their approaches to the game remain very similar.

“He probably knew half the stuff I was going to do, I knew stuff he was going to do, because we pretty much run the same system,” Hall said.

Young noted there are no real secrets in basketball, it just comes down to execution, and he was disappointed with his team in that area.

He stated frustration with the Warriors’ shot selection, their 12-of-26 shooting from the foul line and the times they fouled Bruins jump-shooters who shoot free throws well. Western Branch was 11-of-13 from the line in the fourth quarter alone.

Hall recalled what he relayed to his players with about four minutes to go in the game.

“’You have to make up your mind that you’re going to win the game. Stop making mistakes, stop missing layups, stop missing free throws, stop giving them open shots,’ and we clamped down, and they bought in, and they said, ‘Coach, we’re not going to lose.’”

Bruins’ star senior Aaron Johnson led his team with 18 points.

NR junior Josh Covington had a game-high 19 points to go with three assists and three steals. Senior Matt Allmond was held to six points but had 10 rebounds.

The Warriors trailed 19-18 at halftime, but giving them a boost with a couple three-pointers in the third quarter was senior Paul Hall Jr.

“I did look at my dad a couple times after I made some of those threes,” Hall said. “He just smiled.”

The smile accompanied mixed emotions for Coach Hall.

“That’s kind of bittersweet, because you want to see him do well but don’t want to see him do well against MY team,” the coach said. “We just tried to limit his clean looks.”

His son, who finished with six points, admitted the game was more special than other games to him “because it was my dad coaching the other side, so I really wanted to win this one.”

The elder Hall is also in a unique position of being behind enemy lines at his day job.

“I still teach at Nansemond River, so, you know, I’ve been hearing it all day long. ‘Oh, Coach, we’re going beat you all.’”

The importance of the rivalry was obvious from the atmosphere of the game where the contest extends to the student fan bases in the stands, pitting the River Rowdies against the Bruin Crazies. Thunderous roars worthy of the playoffs erupted when one group’s team gained the advantage on-court.

During timeouts at key junctures in the second half when Western Branch was applying pressure on the Warriors, the Bruin Crazies directed a chant at Coach Young: “Sweat, Ed, sweat!”

Young said he loves the spirit they show and recognizes it as part of the game.

“They’re the second-best student pep group that there is right behind our River Rowdies,” he said, noting the Crazies do a lot of things in the stands the Rowdies have done. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Tonight, Nansemond River (6-5, 0-2) hosts Deep Creek High School, while Western Branch (8-3) hosts King’s Fork High School (8-4, 2-0).