NRHS season ends in frustration

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

Entering the PenSouth Conference 10 Tournament on a four-game winning streak, the fifth-seeded Nansemond River Warriors basketball team took plenty of momentum into their quarterfinal match against the fourth-seeded Gloucester Dukes on Tuesday at Menchville High School in Newport News.

Email newsletter signup

Early on, they rode that confidence to a 22-5 lead through seven minutes of action. However, Gloucester would erase the 17-point deficit and later a seven-point, third-quarter lead by the Warriors. The Dukes outscored Nansemond River 28-15 in the final period for a 75-66 victory.

“I thought we played on a lot of momentum and adrenaline from that first quarter,” Warriors coach Ed Young said. “That leaves you, and then you have to execute. We had a total breakdown defensively in the second half. We were out of defensive position, fouled like crazy and gave up way too many lay-ups.”

Junior guard V.J. Wilkins got Nansemond River off to a hot start, scoring 10 of his team-leading 14 points in the opening period. The Warriors were the aggressor, scoring both in transition and on perimeter jumpers, and they created seven Gloucester turnovers in taking a 25-12 lead to the second quarter.

“We practiced in the dark Monday for basically 45 minutes, because the lights went out in the gym. We shot well in the dark, so we figured we’d try to shoot the lights out again,” Young quipped. “V.J. shot the ball really well in that first quarter, and it was reminiscent of the 13-point third quarter he had against Menchville.”

The game began to turn in the second period as the Warriors struggled with Gloucester’s 1-3-1 half-court trap. Nansemond River committed nine turnovers in the second quarter alone, and the lead shrunk to seven points before freshman Tyler Chatman connected on a long-range shot to push the advantage back up to double-digits.

At the half, Nansemond River led 32-24 and held first-team All-Conference guard Demariyea Sills to five points on 1-of-7 shooting.

“Truth be told, I was a bit nervous they cut into that lead. When we played them last time, we were up 10 or 11 and lost at the buzzer,” Young noted. “Instead of milking our lead and attacking, we were playing like we were down seven, bombing shots and allowing runouts.”

Gloucester started the third quarter on a 9-0 run to take its first lead. Much of the period would be back-and-forth action until juniors Gerard Stringer and Josh Hale seized control late in the period.

Both teamed for a pair of key steals with Stringer finishing a three-point play on a feed from Hale. A fade-away jumper from sophomore forward Bryce Parker gave Nansemond River a 51-44 lead.

A Gloucester three-pointer made it 51-47 in favor of the Warriors going into the fourth quarter. That’s when Sills took over.

Consistently driving into the paint, Sills finished with 20 points on 11-of-15 from the charity stripe and had five assists. Once Gloucester reached the foul penalty, the Dukes proceeded to go on a 20-5 run over the next seven minutes in turning a deficit into a nine-point cushion.

“Sills is very good and showed he was the best player on the floor,” Young said. “Even when he didn’t score, he was a factor. We just rushed so much on offense, and the defense was non-existent when it mattered most.”

After converting 7-of-14 three-pointers in the first half, the Warriors didn’t have nearly as much success shooting from deep during the final two periods. They went 1-for-8 from long distance in the second half. Gloucester went 20-of-37 from the free-throw line, which included 12-of-18 in the fourth quarter.

Although the Warriors finished with a 47-35 advantage in the rebounding department, they shot 36.2 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

“These last five games, we’ve seen a lot of different guys step up,” Young said. “Bryce has been real bright spot for us with his scoring and rebounding. V.J. has made shots from the outside. I really felt we were the better team, but the bottom line is Gloucester got the job done.”

Nansemond River’s season ends at 5-17 overall. It brings Young’s 28-year career mark to 443-239. He’s 221-103 in his 13 years with the Warriors, this one proving to be one of the most challenging, with eight new faces on varsity.

“I don’t want to dwell on the negative, because I think our kids worked,” Young said. “In a season like this, it’s easy to be down to 7-8 players with chaos. But nobody quit, got kicked off or was lost due to grades. D.Q. McGhee, who was our best defender, was the only senior that dressed the last two weeks. Hopefully, all the guys returning can keep improving and be better.”