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December 16, 2012
Every year for the past six seasons, either Highland Springs or Petersburg has made it to the Group AAA State Tournament in basketball. Petersburg has been there five times in that span, losing twice in the title game. Highland Springs has made it to the State Playoffs twice in that stretch, capturing the Championship in 2007, four years after winning their first.
Entering Saturday's tilt, both teams had two losses on their record. That's an unusual number for these two powerhouses, but shouldn't be all that surprising given the fact they are breaking in several new faces to the varsity level. At home, the Springers were able to push a game above the .500 mark and improve to 3-2 overall with a 75-56 victory in the final contest each team before the holiday break.
"I think it's a good win. It was a team effort, and beating Petersburg is always a good thing. They're well-coached and have decent players every year, so this means a lot and is a confidence booster," commented Highland Springs 5-foot-10 junior point guard C.J. Wiggins afterwards.
"We're just coming around as a team and trying to formulate our rotation and our team chemistry to where it needs to be. We were a little shabby at first, we're coming together. We're all still maturing and by the end of the season, we should have things together."
Wiggins, a D-1 prospect who has been offered already by Mount St. Mary's and is being courted by a host of others, finished with 10 points and six assists. Even when his jumper is involved, he knows it's important to get his teammates involved and set others up to score.
"Coach just wants me to be the floor general and be a leader on the court," said Wiggins, one of the quicker point guards in the region and state. "He told me wants to be a Coach on the floor. He wants the ball in my hands and I have to make plays for the team."
Highland Springs got valuable contributions from a number of different players on the day. In fact, six different players had at least nine points and the Springers were able to go deeper into their bench, which is a plus considering they start a freshman in Curtis Jones and a sophomore in Mike'l Simms.
Some of the upperclassmen are beginning to mix it up more and that was evident during the first half when Highland Springs had guys diving on the floor for loose balls.
"That's being competitive. The older guys are competitive, have a little fire to burn and of course they really the tradition we have played with and try to keep that alive. I'm really enjoying them," commented Highland Springs Head Basketball Coach George Lancaster, second among all active AAA coaches in the state in wins with well over 600.
"We're not very tall, but we've got good bounce and enough length to play a little taller than we actually are. We have been a little tentative and have not actually solidified our eight rotation people. Tonight gave us a little bit better idea of who we're going to use."
With 1:50 to go in the first quarter, Petersburg led 11-9. From that point on though, it was all Highland Springs with Lancaster's bunch rattling off 13 unanswered points to go up double-figures.
The lead would remain double-digits pretty much throughout except when Petersburg cut it down to eight at 48-40 with 6:38 remaining following a pair of free-throws by 6-foot-3 junior Gevon Arrington.
Senior David Cosby, the leading scorer for Highland Springs in the game, scored five unanswered points to keep the Wave at bay. Cosby had 15 points and also raising their level of play were sophomore A.J. Gaston and senior Dante Jones with 15 and 12 points respectively.
"A lot of guys responded, David Cosby off the bench, A.J. Gaston off the bench," Lancaster remarked. "Dante we made a starter because he's so versatile, can jump, is rough and has some experience, but more importantly for our team, he's got toughness."
Falling to 3-3 overall, Petersburg was led by Arrington's 21 points and nine rebounds. Frankie Barksdale, a Dinwiddie transfer, chipped in 14 points and a pair of three-pointers. Petersburg actually shot well from the free-throw line, a weakness of theirs in the past. They made 17-of-20 at the charity stripe.
Inexperience and turnovers did Petersburg in, however. They committed 24 turnovers for the contest, including eight in the final quarter, allowing Highland Springs to go on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach. Both of the Crimson Wave's two previous losses to the likes of Brunswick and Central District foe Matoaca were by two points apiece. It was the first time Petersburg had lost to Matoaca since 2006.
Lancaster outlined what his team needs to do moving forward and what they do really well as a group to this point. Among the things he liked was the fact his team made Petersburg really have to work extra hard for their points.
"I think we handle the ball well, pass the ball well and defend. We'll be a solid team, we're going to score 70 points and if we can keep people in the 50's, we'll be alright," Lancaster noted.
"We need to score from the line, handle the ball and do a better job of rebounding and defending the inside game. They still got stick-backs on us. They didn't make lay-ups, but they got stick-backs and that's how Armstrong beat us. We're learning, I'm enjoying teaching and the kids are responding."
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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