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December 11, 2012
L.C. Bird High School is home to the 2012 Group AAA Division 6 State Champions in football. The Skyhawks also have a pretty talented basketball team that is starting to come of age as they improved their record to 4-1 overall, erasing a 10-point half-time deficit to defeat the Meadowbrook Monarchs, 77-70 on Monday night in an exciting non-district Central Region matchup.
Relying on a host of underclassmen to surround one of their few returnees in senior guard JaVonte Reddick, Bird made plenty of mistakes early. In fact, the Skyhawks turned the ball over 16 times through three quarters of play, including eight in the opening period, and trailed for 24 minutes.
However, a key 8-0 run to close the third quarter, holding Meadowbrook without a point for the final 3:55 in the period, pulled Bird within one. They would go on another 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to grab control down the stretch, not turning the ball over once in the game's final stanza.
"I think I have eight sophomores on my team. I have no idea who's going to show up. That's a good thing and a bad thing. But every game is a learning experience for these guys," declared L.C. Bird second-year Head Basketball Coach Troy Manns afterwards.
"We expected some turnovers early. Big crowd, big crosstown rival, but as soon as they settled down we knew we would be able to execute. With our pressure, we just wanted to wear them down, and figured towards the end of the third quarter we may be able to get into their legs a little bit and their bench a little bit."
With Reddick having a relatively off night shooting the basketball, going 1-for-8 from behind the arc and getting in early foul trouble, Bird turned to 6-foot-2 sophomore Kenny Williams to carry the load. Williams delivered, either scoring or assisting on eight straight points for Bird to break a 62-all tie.
"They kind of had us there in the first half, but my teammates and I play hard. After the talk at half-time, we picked our play up," stated Williams, now having posted back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Cosby and Meadowbrook.
On the night, Williams finished with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field, 5-for-6 from the foul line, and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with four assists.
In the off-season, Bird graduated seniors like power forward Christian Smith and point guard Harvey Freeman, plus saw sharp shooter Robert Johnson transfer to Benedictine. All three players were valuable members of the Skyhawks' team that won the Central Region and fell to Norcom in the 2011 Group AAA State Championship game.
Williams knew he would have to raise his play another level after getting significant playing time a year ago as a freshman.
"My Coach told me all summer that I would have to step my role up and I just embraced it and went to work in the gym. Hopefully all my hard work will pay off," Williams noted.
As long as he continues to progress, Williams seems destined to be recruited by a handful of schools at the next level before he graduates.
"Kenny's a special, special kid and the sky's the limit for him," added Manns. "Even last year when he came on the court, he never made mistakes. As a Coach, you're nitpicking and looking for things. He's a slasher, can defend, score and is definitely a Division I player."
Reddick scored 13 points for Bird, making all six of his free-throws in the fourth quarter. Sophomores C.J. Mines, who came in averaging 13.5PPG, Carlos Thrash and Malik Johnson combined to score 22 points for the Skyhawks. All of those contributions were important with Meadowbrook getting 25 points and 12 rebounds from 6-foot-2 junior shooting guard Brandon Cheeks.
The Monarchs were done in by their inconsistent outside shooting, converting only 4-of-24 field goals from three-point range.
When L.C. Bird lost to James River 78-49 last week, many began wondering what was wrong with the Skyhawks. It turned out to be a loss that has made Bird hungrier and determined to prove they are better than that one result indicted.
"This group is a special group. They're tough, no matter how hard I get on them. The next morning in school, they're waiting at my classroom door, and they have such good chemistry and believe in each other," said Manns, whose team has responded with two quality wins since suffering that lopsided district loss.
"James River shot the ball so well [and] I can't take anything away from what they did. They had two size mismatches and we allowed them to take advantage of that. You hate to lose to have to learn, but we learned so much from that game about how important it is to defend for the entire game. It's like when you're a little kid and your mom tells you don't touch the stove because it's hot. You can harp, holler and scream about things, but you don't believe in it until you touch that stove and that's exactly what these guys are going through."
Bird takes on Dominion District foe Midlothian on Tuesday night. Meadowbrook, which dropped to 1-2 overall under first-year Head Coach Jake Oliver, squares off against Central District foes Dinwiddie and Prince George this week.
Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail email@example.com, and don't forget to listen to him Saturdays from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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