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January 18, 2013
The Great Bridge Wildcats took a step closer towards winning a second consecutive Southeastern District regular title on Thursday night, edging the King's Fork Bulldogs 54-50. That improves Great Bridge's record to 14-2 overall, 12-0 in the Southeastern District.
Great Bridge trailed by as many as nine points in the first half before going on a 16-3 run in the third quarter to grab control and never relinquished the lead once they got it in the second half.
Needing to rally is nothing new for Great Bridge, which has become accustomed to doing that in the month of January, and they knew taking on a Bulldogs team that had won 10 in a row before Tuesday night's home loss to Nansemond River would pose some challenges.
"We've been behind the last four or five district games. Oscar Smith had us down, Western Branch had us down, King's Fork had us down. We've been through the grinder, and as I told them after the game, this down the line is going to help us, although it's not going to help my heart right now," remarked Great Bridge Head Basketball Coach Gary Obenour afterwards.
"Josh [Worrell] does a great job at King's Fork and those kids play so hard. It's no secrets, we know what each other do and it's a tough, physical to the end kind of game. Both games were like that and it's whoever makes the least amount of mistakes, and in the second half we probably made a little less than they did."
That certainly was Great Bridge in the third quarter when they went on their run as they created eight King's Fork turnovers. The Bulldogs had only five turnovers in the other three periods combined.
Wildcats star junior guard Marcus Evans, who came in averaging 18.2 points per game, tops among all Southeastern District players, performed much better in the second half as well. Evans had only four points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, waiting until the 1:07 mark of the second quarter to get his first points.
Down the stretch, Evans came alive, striking with a couple of critical mid-range jumpers that kept King's Fork from going back in front. Evans scored 10 of his game-high 14 points over the game's final two quarters of play.
"This team has so much willpower. We've been in this position a lot, we have a lot of experience and I have confidence in every one of these guys that when we get in the fourth quarter against a team and it's close, we're going to put it all on the line and get that win," Evans went on to say.
"We're behind each other 100% and in the locker room at half-time, my teammates encouraged me and told me to keep attacking."
His teammates were there to offer plenty of help, too. Off the bench, Aaron Ferguson chipped in six points in the third quarter and forward Kaleaf Sadler grabbed three boards and blocked a shot. On the interior, center Steve Bienlien was quite a factor with eight rebounds and four blocks. On the perimeter, Byron Williams and Andre Banks combined for 25 points and four three-pointers with Williams collecting eight rebounds.
Especially pivotal was Banks' shot. With King's Fork trailing 47-46, he dropped in his third and final three-pointer of the night with 35 seconds to go to stretch the Wildcats' lead.
"I felt it. That was in my corner," remarked Banks. "When Marcus drives, teams collapse on him and I just sit there and wait for the kick."
While the star power has been there for Great Bridge in recent seasons with Briante Weber (VCU), Taj Owens (Radford) and now Evans, being recruited already by Old Dominion among other D-1 programs, the role players have also been essential in Great Bridge's success. They are carving out their niche and getting better at what they do as the season goes along.
"We talk about that constantly and it's an ongoing process," Obenour said. "Everyone likes to score, everyone likes to be in the forefront, and really when you make a team the hardest part is selecting the kids. We select the right kids, they understand their role and they all fit in."
Banks, a senior on last year's district title winning team that suffered a narrow loss to Kecoughtan in the regional quarterfinals at the Norfolk Scope, doesn't want to go through the heartache again of coming up short of their regional and state title goals.
"I don't want to go through that again," Banks said. "It's just tough."
This might be Great Bridge's best team yet in the Obenour era. Another tight win over a district contender has their belief only strengthening of what they can do come playoff time.
"A win like this builds team chemistry, character, everything," believes Evans. "It lets us know that when we get in touch games, we're more than ready to play together and be able to fight through things. When we get into the district tournament and hopefully make it to the Scope, games like these will have us prepared for what we see."
King's Fork, which got 12 points apiece from Rod Parrett and Jacorey Smith, drops to 11-5 overall and 8-4 in the district.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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