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February 10, 2013
It was virtually the same script as a year ago between these two Peninsula District contenders. Last season, the Hampton Crabbers and Kecoughtan Warriors needed a tie-breaker game to determine the #1 seed for the Eastern Region Tournament. Hampton lost the first meeting before winning the next two, prevailing again in the regional title game and going on to capture a State Championship.
Whether or not the two schools meet again in the Eastern Region game remains to be seen, but this time it'll be Kecoughtan as the #1 seed after their 53-44 triumph over the Crabbers secured a playoff berth.
"We're used to battling with them," remarked Kecoughtan Head Basketball Coach Ivan Thomas afterwards. "The Peninsula District is a grind and we got this game. We tip our hats to Hampton, they did a superb job. I thought our guys played pretty good defense tonight. It wasn't easy."
In moving to 19-4 overall, Kecoughtan jumped on Hampton early. They led 9-4 after the first quarter while the Crabbers began ice cold shooting from the field, misfiring on their first six shots and going 2-for-13 in the opening period. The Warriors used their size to their advantage with Rajay Bullock, Kaelin Poe and Justin Lipscomb gathering nine rebounds through eight minutes of play.
With Division I College Basketball signees on display in Kecoughtan's Bullock (Providence) and Greg Alexander (ECU) as well as Hampton's Anthony 'Cat' Barber (NC State) and Jordan Baker (ODU), it was sophomore point guard Marcell Haskett who stole the show.
Haskett put up 13 points and three assists, scoring a pair of critical baskets late in the third quarter with Hampton making a run to try to tie the game. Those hoops kept the Crabbers at bay.
"You can throw him in the category of being a future Division I guy," believes Thomas of his point guard. "I think he can play defense and he can score the ball. He led our team tonight, is picking up the pace as the season goes on. Last year, this kid had seen everything as a freshman, played in some big games as a freshman. Now, he's a bit of a seasoned sophomore and that's a luxury for us to have."
Above all else, Haskett's fearless play on the defensive end of the court caught the attention of many onlookers. Barber, considered one of the marquee guards in the country who entered needing only 29 points to break the Peninsula District career scoring record set by Bethel's Tony Rutland in 1994, was held to just 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting.
"Of course he's tough. He's a McDonald's All-American [candidate]. I just listen to the coaches and follow my defensive principles because that's where it starts," Haskett said of guarding the guy they call Big Cat.
"The plan was to come out and hit first and not let them hit. We wanted to be more aggressive than we have been. Working with Coach Thomas, I love it because he's teaching me to be a better point guard and my role is higher than it was last year. It's not always about me scoring. It's important that I let the game come to me and we feed our two horses in Greg and Rajay."
As Thomas noted earlier, it was anything but easy keeping him in check as well Baker, who misfired on all six of his shot attempts, three nights after burning the Warriors for four three-pointers in the first half alone. What Kecoughtan did do was make Hampton work for its points and not get a ton of points in transition or the painted area.
"We did a good job of rotating tonight, helping the helper," Thomas added. "We've got guys that can penetrate, slash, do different things and contribute in different ways."
Barber's 30-footer at the third quarter brought Hampton within five points down. Hampton would get within three, 41-38, with 4:57 remaining after two free-throws by Cyonte Melvin. Kecoughtan had an answer, though.
Bullock scored the next two trips down the floor and then found Will Askew for his only points of the night, pushing the lead up to seven. Much like in their first meeting when they beat the Crabbers, Kecoughtan's role players stepped up.
To go with Haskett's 13 points, Poe grabbed nine boards and reserve guard Lawrence Williams put up nine points, more than three of Hampton's starters. Williams also made each of his three field goal attempts and three foul shots.
After getting walloped by 23 on Tuesday and remembering being in this same exact spot last year, Kecoughtan's returning players had a different level of focus and hunger, recognizing the important of grabbing the #1 seed for regionals that will give them a home game in the first round.
"The mindset was to come out and just play hard," Haskett said. "I don't think we had a lot of effort the last game and missed a lot of shots we usually make. Not that we didn't take that game to heart, but we were more focused and had a little bit different mentality."
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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