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January 23, 2013
On one of the coldest days of the winter in Hampton Roads, the chill filtered into the shooting hands of the players at Tallwood's gymnasium on Tuesday night when the Lions played host to Kellam with sole possession of first place in the Beach District on the line.
The visiting Knights from Kellam held on for the victory in the defensive struggle, 36-31, prevailing despite committing 26 turnovers. At the half, the score resembled more of a football game than a basketball one. Kellam led 14-7 even with 15 turnovers. Tallwood couldn't capitalize due to their frigid shooting, misfiring on 21 of their first 22 shots and going 2-for-26 from the field in the opening half.
The two teams combined for more turnovers (40) than either squad scored points, contributing to one of the uglier looking games between winning programs seen all season. Nonetheless, the Knights won't complain about the outcome as they moved to 15-3 overall, 7-0 in the league standings and in the driver's set in the Beach District.
"I'm disappointed with the way we played, but obviously I'll take the victory because of what it meant in the standings and all that good stuff. But that was horrible. That was just bad basketball for us, I can tell you that," remarked Kellam Head Basketball Coach Norman Hassell following a contest that was at times painful for his eyes to watch.
"When I talk about bad I'm really talking about our offense. Defensively, we did exactly what we planned on doing and it worked for the most part. We just couldn't convert anything from fast-break lay-ups, to free-throws to mid-range, 3 balls. We couldn't put the ball in the hole. We have so much work to do still, and you wouldn't think so at this stage of the year, but that's where we are."
While Tallwood finished shooting a forgettable 11-of-57 from the floor, just 19.3%, Kellam wasn't much better. The Knights went 13-of-33 (39%) and struggled to put the Lions away due to turnover and foul shooting. From the free-throw line, Kellam shot 8-for-17, including 6-of-13 in the game's final period.
Fortunately for Kellam, they had a star player on its side in 6-foot-5 senior forward Ramone Snowden, a four-year starter headed to play his College Basketball at Old Dominion. Snowden came in averaging 21.1 points per game, tops in the Beach and second most in the entire Eastern Region. Tallwood had no answer for him.
On what was a performance more solid than spectacular and probably less than stellar for his standards by his own admission, Snowden still managed to record a double-double for the 16th time this year. For the night, he tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds to go with his team-high four assists.
Another senior, 6-foot-2 guard Tyler Vinsand, bailed the Knights out with a couple of timely makes from the perimeter, which went a long way towards preventing Tallwood from tying the game or taking the lead. Vinsand's eight points weren't a grand amount or a season-high by any stretch, but he made 3-of-4 from the field and his team's only two three-pointers with both truly being meaningful makes in a game where every basket was difficult to obtain.
"We'll take a win any day, but you've got to credit Tallwood, too. Even though we were sloppy, they played great defense," Vinsand commented.
"We just couldn't get anything to fall and that really was the story for both teams. Eventually, with help from Ramone and Janai [Raynor-Powell] drawing attention from the defense, we got a few good looks and I was able to knock them down."
Hassell was glad Vinsand had a couple of jumpers in him or else they might've come up on the short end of the stick of things.
"He's a senior, a captain and a leader. He's got a deadly three-point ball and missing shots doesn't mean anything to him," Hassell said of Vinsand. "We needed his leadership tonight when everybody else was off, so that was big for us."
All year long, Kellam has leaned on its scoring output from Snowden to carry them as well as their collectively strong rebounding effort from the future Monarch, senior forward Chris Smith and junior forward Kobe Copeland. That trio combined for 22 boards and the Knights finished with a 36-27 advantage in the rebounding category, successfully chasing down many of the Lions' 19 missed three-pointers.
Afterwards, the Knights weren't in a celebratory mood whatsoever, largely because they know they left a lot of points on the floor. Plus, they need three more district wins to guarantee a second Beach Championship in three years.
To defeat a Tallwood team that beat them on their floor a season ago did exercise some demons and affords gives them slight breathing room from the rest of the pack in the Beach.
"This one was extremely important. It was vital," said Vinsand. "Perennially, it's two teams going for the Beach District title every single season. For us to get over this hump, it's a huge win for us."
With the loss, Tallwood doesn't fall completely out of the district title hunt, but will need some help to force a tie-breaker game. At 10-8 overall, 5-1 in league play, the Lions will have to beat Landstown and get Landstown to beat Kellam in the regular season finale to have a shot at the city crown, plus the #1 seed for the regional tourney.
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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