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December 21, 2012
Beach District play officially began on Thursday night and the first upset has already occurred. The Tallwood Lions knocked off the Green Run Stallions, ranked seventh in the latest AAA State Top 25, by a count of 74-68 on the road.
Tallwood got it done behind near flawless free-throw shooting, converting 25 of 27 shots at the foul line and 18-of-19 in the fourth quarter to protect a 16-point lead that shrunk all the way down to four points with 1:23 remaining. The Lions also shot 60% from the field in the second half and scored 52 points over the final two quarters against a Green Run team that came in allowing only 47.8 points per game.
"We've never shot like that, that's for sure. It's good to put it all together when you're going against one of the top ranked teams in the area, and the team that's expected to win the Beach District this year," commented Tallwood Head Basketball Coach Tom Gunsalus afterwards.
Leading the way for the Lions was 5-foot-10 senior guard Tommie Flournoy. One of the area's leading scorers, Flournoy had perhaps the best game of his career, which includes banking in a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat First Colonial last year.
Flournoy finished with 28 points, scoring 24 of them in the second half. He shot 9-of-16 from the field, connecting on nine of his last 12 shots to shake off a quiet start where he began 0-for-4. At the charity stripe, Flournoy was sharp as he made all nine of his attempts, seven coming in the game's final period with Green Run trying to make a comeback.
"They say practice makes perfect and we really practiced hard on Monday, and came out with a lot of intensity," noted Flournoy. "We played good defense and our bigs stepped up tonight."
In the first quarter, Tallwood contained Green Run quite well, holding them to just six points. The Lions led virtually the entire first half until the Stallions closed the second quarter on a 7-0 spurt the final 1:35 to claim a 23-22 lead on freshman Sterling Carrington's bucket seconds before the horn sounded.
It appeared that losing a lead they had for almost the entire first half might break Tallwood's spirit, but they began the third quarter on a 23-8 run. Flournoy put up 11 points in the third period alone and got help from his backcourt mates in the form of Tyler Peterson, Darius Horton, Langston Petteway as well as forwards William Howard, Quincy Jones and James Greene.
The Lions wanted to keep Green Run out of transition, and once they had possession of the basketball, identify favorable one-on-one matchups they could exploit off the dribble.
"We knew they were probably going to switch every screen, so what we tried to do was open it up a little bit," Gunsalus pointed out. "We felt that if we could get the lead, spread them out, it would open up the driving lanes so we could attack and kick out if we needed to kick out or finish at the rim."
Another key for the Lions was trying to limit the steal opportunities of Green Run senior point guard Lequan Thomas, one of the best in the region at causing havoc defensively and turning it into points at the other end. Thomas, nicknamed Laybay, finished with 16 points, five assist and three steals, respectable numbers, but didn't have quit the impact that he did in the Stallions' recent win over Norcom.
"We knew whoever Laybay was guarding we wanted to take it to the rack on the opposite man," said Peterson, a junior guard for the Lions who made as many steals on the night as Thomas. "They had momentum at the end, but those free-throws were really big for us and settled us down."
Leading the way for Green Run was junior guard Tyler Blount with 21 points, though he didn't have his typical shooting night, going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. Keon Buchanan scored 17 points before fouling out with 14 of those coming during a hot stretch in the fourth quarter.
Knocking off Green Run and doing so despite the Stallions scoring 33 fourth quarter points on its home floor should be quite a boost for Tallwood moving forward.
"It builds a lot of confidence for us. I really thought our team came together Saturday. We played Northeastern out of Elizabeth City, they're a very good team and we played them without Tommie," remarked Gunsalus.
"All year we've been talking about trusting our teammates, having trust that they can make the play in the clutch and having confidence so we're not relying on one player to do it all for us. It's taken us a little while to mesh and for the team to develop chemistry.
Now 6-4 overall, Tallwood closes out the year versus Reservoir and Suitland in a tournament in Maryland. They open up the New Year versus Cox and then take on Great Bridge on January 5th in the Fifth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Classic Presented by Cox 11 Sports at Virginia Wesleyan College.
After losing to #7 seed Bayside in the opening round of the district playoffs a year ago to end their streak of reaching the Eastern Region Tournament six consecutive years, Tallwood is aiming to get back to the regional playoffs.
"We came back real hungry because of that loss last year and weren't supposed to lose that game," admitted Flournoy. "We didn't play hard enough and we want to redeem ourselves this year."
Meanwhile, Green Run falls to 7-2 overall and 0-1 in league play even though they won six games against district opponents that don't count in the standings. The Stallions face Norview and Ocean Lakes to open up the New Year, and then play Petersburg in the finale of the VirginiaPreps.com Classic.
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 from 10 AM to Noon every Saturday on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him weekly on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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