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February 15, 2012Sign up for premium access to VirginiaPreps.com with a 7-day free trial! The VIP Board provides the latest in recruiting updates plus in-depth top prospects lists for football, basketball and baseball!
Sweeping a team three times in a season is never an easy task.? That was what the Western Branch Bruins were facing when they took on the defending Southeastern District Tournament Champion Oscar Smith Tigers on Monday night in Suffolk.? At stake was a berth to the regional playoffs, and Western Branch was able to pass the test, rolling to a 63-53 win in the quarterfinals in a game where the Bruins led by double-figures most of the way.
For Western Branch (16-7), it marks the first time they are headed to the Eastern Region Tournament since 2003.
"It's real special.? Everybody believed we could do it," declared second-year Western Branch Head Coach Chris Fuhrmann. ?"It's one of those things where you come into a season and obviously everybody wants to win, but everybody bought in and said we could definitely do it.? I'm just real proud of guys because ever since I got the job they've been working hard, and everybody works hard, but you like to see that success because it makes them want it more.? To get this is huge."?
Fuhrmann has the Bruins enjoying their best season in terms of wins since 1999-2000 when Spencer Ross and David Fanning led the team to a region playoff berth and a Southeastern District Tournament title.?
For 24 seasons, Mike Donovan was the Head Coach at Western Branch.? He left to go to Granby, where he has guided the Comets to back-to-back region playoff appearances.? It has turned out to be a coaching move that has worked for both parties as both Donovan is having success at Granby and his old program looks much proved under the guy that learned under him.
"The main thing was I wanted to get the kids more involved in the program, get them excited about basketball around the school.? I was fortunate enough that when I took over that I had some young kids that were basketball guys and really wanted to get involved in it and want to work," Fuhmrann noted.?
"They were able to develop their skills, and I wanted this job ever since I was young because I've lived in the Western Branch area almost my whole life.? I owe a lot to Coach Donovan because without him I would've never had the opportunity.? It worked out so great, and I'm so grateful and blessed I was able to get it, and do what we've been able to do."
Right out of the gate, Western Branch started off hot, sensing the moment as they built a 28-18 lead at the half and shot 55% from the field.? Demonte Burns, a junior guard with range from deep that hasn't quite had the season he was hoping to have, had his jumper going in the first half with 12 points and a pair of treys.
"I've been off the whole season and had to come out and do what I do best, shoot 3's," Burns said.? "I think the momentum coming out in the first quarter was big, and coming out with pressure and getting some dunks.? But defense was the key."
Western Branch clamped down on Oscar Smith star center and Johnson C. Smith signee Chris Williams, who didn't look 100% after suffering a groin injury last week.? Named the Southeastern District Player of the Year, Williams was scoreless in the first half and got all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter.? By then, Western Branch had pushed its lead to as many as 18, leading 46-28 entering the game's final period following a 10-0 run.
Although Oscar Smith (12-11) was able to shoot 7-for-17 from three-point range, they committed 14 turnovers and could never get on a run to make it closer than a six-point game in the second half.?
To go with Burns' 18 points, senior and leading scorer Rashon Woody had a game-high 20 points, getting his points both inside and out to lead the Bruins.? Also scoring in double-figures with 12 points was center Jashad Jamison.
"We wanted to send a message early.? We dominated the last game and we wanted to play just as hard this time," said Woody.
"This means we've been working hard and moments like these show it's paying off.? This was one of our goals at the beginning of the season.? The plan is to keep this going and we're going to try to go all the way."?
Up next for Western Branch on Thursday night in the Southeastern District Tournament semifinals is Great Bridge, which went 19-3 overall this year and won its first regular season crown since 2000.? But the Bruins have plenty of confidence that they can play with the Wildcats and win, having led both regular season meetings before fizzling down the stretch.
"We've got to be able to hit free-throws," Woody
pointed out.? "Last time we didn't hit
free-throws and they came back and beat us.?
This time we're going to focus more, and we should be able to come out
Matthew Hatfield serves as AAA State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network.? Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related info and updates.? To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 and watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.