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December 16, 2012
The two Champions of the Southeastern District during the regular season and tournament a year ago squared off in Suffolk on Friday night as the Great Bridge Wildcats visited the Nansemond River Warriors in a battle between undefeated teams with first place in the league standings on the line.
Great Bridge, which won the regular season title a year ago, shook off an early six-point deficit and seized control in the second quarter on their way to a 66-48 triumph. The victory improves the Wildcats' record to 7-0 overall and they now have done something for first time in school history. That's sweep all three Suffolk schools - - Nansemond River, King's Fork and Lakeland - - on the road.
"Nansemond River, it's a hard place to play. Great fans, the kids really love the atmosphere. We took their best shot in the first quarter, and I thought they came at us right there at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, we held on and good things happened," commented Great Bridge Head Basketball Coach Gary Obenour afterwards.
As Nansemond River concentrated much of their defensive attention on junior guard and D-1 prospect Marcus Evans of Great Bridge, sophomore guard Aaron Ferguson, a transfer from Deep Creek, exploded with a career-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 6-for-7 at the foul line.
In addition to his offensive exploits, Ferguson provided five rebounds, three assists and three steals, giving Great Bridge a much-needed boost off the bench in the backcourt.
"It was real critical," answered Ferguson when asked if he felt he needed to give his team a lift. "My role is defense. Coach is always on me about defense and he tells me my offense is going to come, be patient and I was coming off a bad game on Tuesday night. Tonight I let my time come when they went Box-and-one on Marcus.
"They're big inside and we had to put bodies on them, so we've been practicing rebounding, boxing out and crashing the boards all week. We were able to secure the rebounds before we leaked out and everybody stepped up."
Facing multiple defenses the entire night, Evans got his first points with 55 seconds left in the opening quarter and still managed to put up respectable numbers of 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, playing more of a facilitator role.
"Any time you play against an Ed Young team, he's going to throw different things at you. We knew coming in we had to be prepared to change things up. I had complete confidence in my teammates and fortunately we were able to adjust to it really well. We didn't want to get into playing their style of ball because that's how we turn it over," commented Evans.
"This is definitely a huge game. We kind of had a chip on our shoulder from last year losing to them here and in the district playoffs. We knew if we could get a win here and make a statement, we'd be in a good place the rest of the district."
Down 8-2 only five minutes into the game, the Wildcats didn't panic and closed the first half with a 31-15 stretch to go up 10 at intermission. In the second half, Great Bridge built a 17-point advantage when Nansemond River went on a 14-2 run, keyed by sophomore Scott Spencer, to trim the deficit to only six. But Great Bridge responded by scoring 15 of the game's next 17 points.
Patience and experience were big factors for the Cats in those crucial times.
"We have four starters back and Mark Madison might as well be a starter because he got starter minutes last year," noted Obenour. "They've been through it, understand what happened here last year and let's be honest, we won the district, but Nansemond River beat us twice last year. We still have a long way to go, it's not over."
When Great Bridge went to a three-pronged guard attack in the second period, Ferguson flourished with his ability to create scoring opportunities off the dribble. Their defense stymied the Warriors' offensive as well.
While Ferguson scored eight points in the second quarter, Nansemond River shot just 4-of-14 from the field over those eight minutes. For the game, the Warriors finished 16-for-56 (29%).
Nansemond River came in averaging 71.6 points per game. The Warriors were held to 48 points and shot 0-for-15 from three-point range.
"We have not played a whole lot of zone this year and I know you've got to show Ed some different things," pointed out Obenour. "We started in man, pressed them a little bit in the second quarter and then we went to our 2-3 matchup. Defensively, we mixed it up well."
The two leading scorers for Nansemond River, junior guard Devon Oakley and senior forward Ed Drew, were held to 12 points combined on 4-of-24 shooting from the field.
For Nansemond River, they have to bounce back quickly to stay in second place in the league and remain only a game back of Great Bridge when they visit a Western Branch team on Tuesday that is also 5-1 in the district. The Wildcats have the luxury of playing five of their final seven games at home, including dates with Nansemond River and King's Fork.
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 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.
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