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February 2, 2013
The Kecoughtan Warriors were all smiles on Senior Night as they remained in first place in the Peninsula District, breaking open a close game at the half in a 61-47 victory over the Heritage Hurricanes. It moves Kecoughtan's record to 16-3 overall, 14-1 in league play.
Leading the way for the host Warriors was the terrific tandem of Providence signee and 6-foot-7 forward Rajay Bullock and 6-foot-5 swingman Greg Alexander (East Carolina signee). If it wasn't one hurting Heritage, it was the other.
The highly skilled Bullock recorded 29 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. Only a couple minutes into the third quarter, he had scored 23 points and appeared headed for a 40-point night. Rajay also made all eight of his free-throw attempts.
"We needed this win to stay in [first] place because we know if we lose one more game we'll be tied up with Hampton," Bullock stated afterwards. "I think we're more focused this year, know what's going on and we're trying to win this. I feel a lot more confident than last year. I feel like I can do a lot more."
Alexander, celebrating being named Homecoming King, had 19 points playing the Robin to Bullock's Batman. A reserve on last year's team that made a meteoric rise towards the end of his junior season and into the off-season, Alexander caught fire in the third quarter with 10 points, showing off a sweet touch from the outside and the ability to knock down the mid-range jumper.
"It feels good, but if we had lost this would've spoiled this whole thing. I wouldn't take be taking any pictures or anything," Alexander admitted.
"Every game means a lot. Of course with this being Senior Night and them on a long winning streak, it really meant a lot to get this win."
Early on, Heritage made it a ballgame, despite committing 14 first turnovers against a Warriors team that was able to effectively trap and apply pressure as well as keep the Canes out of the lane when they needed to by using a 2-3 zone. In fact, Heritage even took a brief lead with 1:59 to go in the second quarter on a free-throw by sophomore Romello Anderson.
Like they did to end the first quarter with a pair of steals from sophomore point guard Marcell Haskett, Kecoughtan was able to generate points off turnovers with Bullock, Haskett and Lawrence Williams to take a 29-27 lead into the half.
Heritage came in riding a seven-game winning streak, longest in the Eastern Region. Mike Gardner's team stayed close by not attempting too many ill-advised 3's and contesting the Warriors' outside shooters. They've earned the respect of Kecoughtan Head Basketball Coach Ivan Thomas, who believes they will be a pesky out come tournament time.
"This is a team I don't think you want to play in the playoffs. This team got better, a lot better," Thomas went on to say. "Towards the end of the game, I think our guys dug a little deep and they expended a lot of energy early to maintain, but we caught up with them, made shots, and Rodney Bullock and Greg Alexander are pretty good."
Role players made their presence felt for Kecoughtan once again, even without scoring a lot. With an assistant coach from Virginia Wesleyan watching him closely, 6-foot-6 senior forward/center Kaelin Poe grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots.
In general, Thomas was pleased with the entire supporting cast, particularly highlighting Nick Carrera and Justin Lipscomb with their rebounding, hustle and defense.
"We've got a lot of unsung guys," he noted. "Whenever it's their chance or their moment, they step up. We've got a lot of guys giving unseen efforts that don't necessarily show up in the box scores, but show up in terms of allowing Greg to get open, Rajay or Poe to take a blow on the defensive end because they're defending and rebounding."
When the defense concentrated on Bullock in the third quarter, that's when Alexander struck, pushing the lead from eight to double-figures with six straight points.
"Coach always tells me to keep shooting. Shooters keep shooting. That's what I did," Alexander added. "I trusted my teammates, we got the big man the ball and Rajay did what he always does. He attracts so much attention, so that leaves shooters open and the guards can get to the basket."
The Warriors' matchup at Hampton on Tuesday could settle the PD regular season title and #1 seed for the regional tourney. If Kecoughtan wins, they should win their first district crown since 1991-92. Meanwhile, a Hampton victory would force a tie-breaker game, likely to be played that Friday to determine to the automatic berth to the region dance.
"The message has always been the same and it's not any different. We've got a program, want to continue to try to get better as the season goes on and last year was last year. Hampton is a very good team and it's not as if we didn't compete with them every game. It's not as if we weren't one of the last four teams playing in the semifinals for the state title," Thomas said.
"We're right back here again and I think the difference is we have a lot more guys that understand their roles and understand the system. We feel good about ourselves and expect a dogfight towards the end and wouldn't expect anything else in the Peninsula 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 email@example.com, 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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