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February 19, 2013
Strong Third Quarter Propels Eagles Past Warriors: This time, there would be no upset. Three years ago, the Landstown Eagles were Champions of the Beach District and a #1 seed for the Eastern Region Tournament when the fourth-seeded Nansemond River Warriors came to their gym and stunned them to halt an 18-game winning streak and end the season of the state's fourth-ranked team at the time.
The script looked almost exactly the same, only this time the Eagles weren't going to be denied as they edged the visitors from Suffolk, 64-58 to move on to the regional quarterfinals at the Norfolk Scope on Wednesday.
Landstown led just 32-30 at the half when a 19-8 bulge in the third quarter opened up the game for them. Nansemond River would make a mini comeback and pull within six, but got no closer as the Eagles sank free-throws and got a bucket late to put the Warriors away.
"We didn't really trap them or anything early. We just played our regular zone defense against them and I felt like we could put a little pressure on them and get some turnovers in that third quarter," commented Landstown Head Basketball Coach Dwight Robinson. "I didn't want to do it early against them so that they'd get in a rhythm of breaking it because they're fresh. I wanted to wait a little while before we started pulling out some traps."
The subs enabled Landstown to have flexibility with its lineup and not allow Nansemond River to get comfortable.
"I think this year we've got a lot more experience coming off the bench," believes Robinson. "Guys like Malcolm Worthy, Keanu Reuben, R.J. Nicholson played real well for us coming off the bench. Those guys played major minutes down the stretch for us. We're really bringing our starting point guard (Jordan Roberson) off the bench, too. That makes for a pretty good next five."
After losing to Green Run in the Beach District Tournament semifinals, Landstown knew they had to return home and give their fans something to cheer about and get any bad taste out of their mouths.
"That loss gave us some motivation, but we knew we had home court on Monday, so it gave us an extra day of practice and that kind of helped us out a lot," said Eagles senior forward Andre Stanley.
With the loss, Nansemond River's season, which started out at 15-2, ends at 17-8 overall. It marks the first time since 2009 that the Warriors won't be heading to the regional quarterfinals after getting to Scope each of the past three years.
Stanley ended up with 12 points, sharing team high honors with Sebastian Sandifer, and collected eight rebounds, six on the offensive end. That gave the Eagles extra scoring opportunities, and proved to be really vital in the second half.
"Getting loose balls, watching our turnovers and making sure we didn't give up second chance points were the main keys for us," Stanley noted.
#1 - - Balanced Attack: The Eagles put four players in double-figures and got 11 steals from seven different players. Equally important was the lift they got off the bench with 17 points from reserves on the night compared to 12 for Nansemond River.
There's no one superstar on their team or D-1 stud opponents have to key in on like in the past with Stanley Pringle, Percy Harvin, Reggie Williams, Julian Norfleet, Donte Morales and others, but that has worked to their advantage in a lot of ways this year.
"Everybody on our team can score," Stanley said. "When that happens, it's easier to get points."
The Eagles looked like a football team trying to run the ball, chew up yardage little by little and let the clock run out. Patience and passing the ball around the perimeter until the right shot came open and taking it allowed them to maintain their lead and prevent any type of dramatic Nansemond River comeback in the final minutes.
That's something the Eagles have gotten better at since losing a lead late in the season against Green Run in a game they lost in overtime.
"We practice that a lot," Stanley said, "moving the ball around, running different plays for us to score and controlling the ball and clock."
With Bolstad and Stanley as well as wings that crash the boards effectively in Sandifer, Worthy, Nicholson and Cameron Alston, they're able to more than hold their own in that department.
"Rebounding is one of our strong suits," Robinson remarked. "Darius, Keanu, Malcolm and R.J., and the smaller guys are real active. Andre and Darius are big guys and they did a good job of blocking out. We know that they're a strong rebounding team and we felt if we can rebound with them, then we'd be in good shape."
For the night, Landstown out-rebounded Nansemond River 28-25, getting 14 offensive boards. No player reached in double-digits in boards for the Warriors.
The two teams will square off on Wednesday night at Scope with a spot in the regional semifinals on Sunday at stake.
Hampton won the State Championship last season and returned most of its main pieces in NC State signee Anthony 'Cat' Barber, a McDonald's All-American, and Jordan Baker, an Old Dominion signee, headlining their attack.
"It's pretty good to go against them," commented Stanley. "To be the best, you've got to beat the best. We feel confident going into that game."
Even though they are a #1 seed and the Crabbers are a #2 seed, Landstown will be playing in an underdog role, one they relish.
"Well, I think everybody plays that way now. It's either you win or go home. You've got to play all out, regardless of who it is," Robinson stated.
"(Barber's) a special player and they have another special player in Baker as well. You can't forget about Tre Perry and Sammie [Royal]. I think Sammie's really the heart and soul of the team. Those guys played extremely well last year, jelled at the right time. Hopefully we're jelling at the right time as well and can compete."
Matthew Hatfield serves as AAA 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 him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 and watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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