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January 4, 2013
The varsity coaching debut of Cornell Parker, a former Maury star that played his College Basketball at the University of Virginia, came under different circumstances than he could've envisioned on Wednesday night. He got a phone call from the longtime Head Coach of the Commodores, Jack Baker, asking if he would guide his team.
Baker, a man with 657 career victories and in year #37 at the helm, was mourning the loss of his mom, Frances Baxter Inge Baker, who passed on December 30th. Without any hesitation, Parker, the current J.V. Coach at Maury and varsity assistant, agreed to take over the team in Baker's absence.
The Commodores rallied from an early 10-point deficit on the road to defeat Lake Taylor, 53-40 in a pivotal Eastern District matchup that kept their title hopes alive, remaining one game back of league leader Norcom.
"We put this game towards Coach Baker because he lost his mom and we dedicated this game to him," said Maury 6-foot-1 junior Avontae Ferguson, the game's high scorer with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field.
"I knew I had to do more things and step up because I was going to be in the game more and my defense was going to really count. I try to be the hype man, get my team involved and score when I can. Basically, we had to dig deep, and we played as a family and played together."
Lake Taylor (7-3; 3-2) got off to the quick start behind guard Darnell Jenkins, who scored seven of the Titans' first 13 points as they jumped out 13-3. Maury shot a meager 2-of-15 from the field in the first quarter and matters got worse when junior guard Mike Basnight, the team's leading scorer so far this year and top perimeter shooter, suffered a concussion after taking a nasty spill.
That's when Maury leaned heavily on the Ferguson brothers, Avontae and Jaleel Ferguson, as well as an improving, yet somewhat green support cast that includes seniors Domontae Chapman, juniors Jalon Williams and Shyheim Draughan, and sophomore Blake Gibson.
"The first quarter I thought we played a lot of one-on-one and there wasn't much ball movement. But then by the second quarter, the guys started to blend in, play more together. Our defense was very aggressive, especially Avontae. Offensively, we tried to slow it down a little bit and get it inside," Parker added.
"I think Avontae helped a lot. He brought a lot of emotion and energy to our game. We had a lot of players step up. Jalon Williams had a great game, Blake did a great job backing up in the first half, Six (Draughan) coming off the bench and it was a team effort."
By half-time, Maury had cut the lead down to five at 23-18 with neither team connecting from three-point distance. For Lake Taylor, a team that has thrived on shooting the three-pointer, particularly leading scorer Treyvond Lockhart, things didn't change much in the second half.
The Titans shot 0-for-10 from long range for the game as Maury's defense completely bottled them up. Lake Taylor was unable to convert on penetrate and kick opportunities, nor did they get many clean looks. Lockhart, who came in averaging 20.5 points per game, was held to six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"In practice, we went over how we couldn't leave their shooters and wanted to get them out of their comfort zone," Avontae noted.
During the third quarter, Maury went to work in the paint behind Jaleel Ferguson, beginning to play out from under the shadow of older brother Jamal, a freshman at Marquette after starring the past four years with the Commodores. Jaleel scored nine of his points on the third quarter, playing very active along the baseline.
Meanwhile, Ferguson got helped from Draughan, a former Lake Taylor player. Draughan collected seven boards, three blocks and gave Maury a physical presence to battle a Lake Taylor team with pretty respectable size on the frontline.
"At half-time, I thought we needed to get both of those guys in together. Having those two nice sized, good athletes in there, I thought that would help us out and down the stretch they did," Parker went on to say.
Once Maury grabbed the lead in the third quarter, they never looked back and the closest Lake Taylor got in the fourth period, when they were outscored 15-6, was six points down.
One of the major differences came on the backboards, where the Commodores limited Lake Taylor to just 22 rebounds all night. It was a much different outing on the glass for the Titans after out-rebounding Booker T. Washington by 22 in the Ronald Curry Classic four days earlier.
Maury is now 9-1 overall and 4-1 in the Eastern District. To win the regular season crown and the accompanying #1 seed for regionals, they'll likely need to get a victory on January 25th at Norcom, a place they haven't won at since December of 2005.
Before that battle, Maury will take on T.C. Williams from the Northern Region on Saturday at 6:00 PM at Virginia Wesleyan College's Batten Center as part of the Fifth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Basketball Classic Presented by Cox 11 Sports.
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 High School Sports Talk every Saturday from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 and watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report
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