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January 18, 2014
Kecoughtan Wins at Western Branch
Final - - #6 Kecoughtan 71, Western Branch 67:
A re-match of last year's regional quarterfinal matchup at the Norfolk Scope, the Kecoughtan Warriors won a 6A-South Conference 2 road tilt over the Western Branch Bruins, 71-67 on Thursday night. Kecoughtan led by as many as 19 before the Bruins scored 32 in the final quarter to make things much tighter at the end.
After committing only two turnovers in the third quarter, the Warriors turned it over six times in the third period. Fortunately for Kecoughtan, they built a large enough lead to survive.
"In the fourth quarter, Coach always tells us no turnovers and I put that on myself," stated Kecoughtan junior point guard Marcell Haskett. "We didn't do that like we were supposed to at the end of the game and it was closer that it should've been. We have to keep playing defense, cut down on turnovers and buy in as a team."
Haskett and 6-foot-4 senior wing Brandon Tabb both entered the week averaging over 20 points per game and were the main cogs offensively. Tabb scored seven points during a 15-2 run in the second quarter the lead to double-figures before half-time.
What made Coach Ivan Thomas of Kecoughtan happy was to see how intense his team defended for stretches, creating nine turnovers in the first half. Against the Bruins' 3-2 matchup zone, the Warriors made 5-of-13 from three-point land in the opening half, and didn't settle for low-percentage shots over the final two quarters. They made 2-of-4 on 3's during the second half, making a concerted effort to push the pace and attack the basket.
"This is a very tough place to play. Early in the second half, I thought we stretched the lead. We did by getting stops, getting back [in transition] and got some buckets in transition," stated Thomas.
"I just hope we can continue to get better. It seems like we're getting better each game. It's a blue-collar group and I'm pleased with the guys."
With the win, Kecoughtan moved to 11-5 overall, 3-1 in conference competition. They stay one game back of Woodside in the conference standings. Meanwhile, Western Branch dropped to 8-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play. They lost six of their last seven going into a conference contest with Bethel on Friday.
In defeat for the Bruins, junior guard Nigel Riberio, who came in leading all of Tidewater in scoring around 25 points per game, finished with 28 points. He scored 22 in the second half.
Player of the Game: Kecoughtan PG Marcell Haskett - - The Class of 2015 prospect with an offer from Hampton University and strong interest from Loyola and Mount St. Mary's is the lone returning starter from last year's squad that won the Peninsula District and reached the State Tournament for a second consecutive season. Gone are Rajay Bullock (Providence) and Greg Alexander (East Carolina), meaning the Warriors' floor general has had to assume a larger role alongside the likes of Tabb, Nick Carrera, Will Askew and Damian Knowlin.
Considered a very good, harassing on-ball defender, Haskett recorded three steals. Where he made his impact most in this game though was offensively, scoring 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting and displayed improving range and touch on his three-point shot, where he converted 4-of-5.
"I've been working on that in the summer," Haskett said of his outside jumper. "But it's not all about scoring for me. We've got Damian, Will and Tabb. I'm just here to do whatever it takes to win. Whoever is on that night, we're going to feed."
Keys to Victory:
#1 - - Supporting Cast Helps Headliners: Haskett put up major numbers and so too did Tabb, enjoying a breakout year. He scored 22 points, despite a semi-off night shooting from long range, and grabbed seven rebounds while blocking five shots.
"Tabb has come along well. He's definitely improved over the summer and is a big part of this team," admitted Thomas.
Those two have carried Kecoughtan for much of the season. What will go a long way towards determining how far they go is their supporting cast around those two. Against the Bruins, the likes of Askew, Carrera and Knowlin supplied excellent minutes.
Askew tallied nine assists. He was able to often find an open cutter, shooter or man on the break.
"Will is the unsung hero. He handles the ball, plays good defense and knows where to be to find these guys. He's kind of the glue that holds it together," believes Thomas.
"The other tough guy inside is Nick Carrera. He's an unselfish guy, rebounds, a football kid, drew two charges tonight and does all the dirty work."
Carrera's five points and five boards probably don't illustrate his importance to the team. Kecoughtan doesn't have the length, size or depth they've had in recent years, so the two-sport athlete that also plays football is counted on to provide heavy minutes and do so without getting in serious foul trouble.
The future looks mighty bright for Knowlin, who delivered two hammer drunks and nearly posted a double-double with 13 points and seven boards.
"Knowlin is only a sophomore and he will be a player in this region," said Thomas. "No question."
"We were trying to take him out of the game and we did a great job for a while," commented Haskett, a teammate of Ribeiro's this past spring and summer on the AAU circuit. "Our motto on defense is to hunt."
It took Ribeiro 22 shots to get his 28 points, and although he would go a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line in the second half, Western Branch was playing from behind. Their crowd stayed quiet most of the night, and the Warriors made it difficult for the Bruins to get on track offensively until the closing minutes.
"We played really good defense early. I thought we were able to control Nigel early, which helped us get the lead," Thomas added. "We were rotating and were everywhere."
"We knocked down some shots, Damian Knowlin got off inside and handled their typical 1-2-2 zone pressure," remarked Thomas, whose team made 45% of its field goal attempts. "They're going to play a zone and I think it's tough to play a zone since we shoot the ball so well. We moved the ball well."
Kecoughtan Warriors 71:
Branch Bruins 67: (8-7; 2-2)
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 every Saturday from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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