Nansemond River wins for Young

Published 6:01 pm Monday, December 31, 2018

By Matthew Hatfield


The Nansemond River Warriors played with heavy hearts in their basketball game on Friday night against the undefeated Smithfield Packers at the King’s Fork Holiday Tournament. They were without their longtime head coach Ed Young, who was in Pennsylvania grieving the recent death of his mother.

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Without Young on the sidelines, the Warriors dedicated perhaps their best performance of the season to date to him, beating the Packers 77-56 to earn a spot in Saturday night’s championship game.

“Coach gives his all for basketball and for us, so we wanted to do something nice for him. This was a way to show him that we love him and that we’re trying to do the best for him,” said Craig Frost, the junior varsity coach for the Warriors filling in as the interim head man for the varsity squad in Young’s absence.

A couple of vital elements triggered the runaway — great bench play and swarming defense. Nansemond River’s second unit outscored Smithfield’s 33-9 and the Warriors forced 27 turnovers for the game, most of which came in the form of 22 steals. Seniors Jeremiah Lewis and Rayshawn Murray were two of the main benefactors.

Lewis nearly recorded a triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight steals. Murray added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five steals and four assists.

“Everybody off the bench came with the intensity. We treated them like every other team. We didn’t underestimate them and gave it our all. We wanted to do it for Coach Young,” said Murray, who combined for 21 second half points with fellow sub Bryce Parker. They helped trigger a 29-6 run in the third quarter after Smithfield scored the first eight points of the half to take a 41-38 lead.

“We were lacking efficiency on the defensive end, so I wanted to pick that up. On the other end, we started scoring and it wasn’t just about lay-ups. We wanted to get everybody involved.”

Setting the tone at the start for Nansemond River was senior forward Jalil Langston as he bunched 11 of his team-high 19 points into the opening quarter.

“Jalil has been great for us on defense, and now he has more confidence in his offense,” Frost said. “He’s becoming a real threat for us.”

From there, the tenacity the Warriors played with was a big upgrade from their 73-71 overtime loss a week ago to Indian River.

“Our last three days of practice have been tremendously tough and physical. A lot of that showed with the diving on loose balls and just overall aggressive play,” Frost said.

“We talked about being mentally tough. That was a part of us that I thought let us down in the Indian River game when they went on a run. The guys stayed together and stayed the course. We also switched it up a little bit and went back to the press, which helped get everybody calmed down.”

When Smithfield struggled shooting from long distance, going 2-of-15 from three-point territory, the Warriors sizzled from the field. Nansemond River converted 55.4 percent of their field goals (31-for-56), keeping the Packers from getting any closer than nine points down in the fourth quarter.

“We knew we had to take better shots, be smarter on the floor, rebound and play harder on defense,” Lewis acknowledged.

Afterwards, the Warriors briefly reflected on what Young would’ve thought of the victory that evened their record to 4-4 overall on the season.

“He would be honored. He would be proud of us because we played hard, played together and played as a team,” Lewis said.

Nansemond River’s long-term goal is to keep improving to have a chance at a playoff berth in Region 5A by February.

“It was a big win for us, and we just have to be consistent in everything we do. We have to take it step by step, but we’re looking to build momentum,” said Frost.