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January 30, 2013

Great Bridge Stays Unbeaten in SED Play

Knowing that a win on Tuesday night would pretty much wrap up a second straight Southeastern District regular season title, the Great Bridge Wildcats weren't going to be denied. With the Nansemond River Warriors, a team that has won five district titles since 2005, venturing into Chesapeake, Wildcats seized the opportunity to complete a sweep of the Suffolk schools, both home and away.

Trailing by 10 in the second quarter, that celebration looked like it might be on hold for Great Bridge. But the Cats responded with a 13-2 run to close the first half to grab a one-point lead, proving to be a pivotal stretch in a 55-51 victory where they erased deficits in each of the game's final three quarters en route to improving to 16-2 overall, 14-0 in league play.

"It was a momentum change," said Great Bridge Head Basketball Coach Gary Obenour of the flurry before the half, which was keyed by three-pointers from senior Byron Williams and junior Mark Madison.

"They had stuck it to us right at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. I told the kids during a time-out not to panic, we were taking decent shots, thought our ball movement wasn't the best, but once we started going inside and out, hit a couple 3's, it really sparked us. And I'm very happy with how we played down the stretch."

Amazingly, Great Bridge went on that run without junior guard and star Marcus Evans, who'll likely take home Southeastern District Player of the Year honors, scoring a point. Evans experienced some early struggles in the first half, failing to get to the foul line and scoring just six points.

In the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance, Evans grabbed it by the throat. He first nailed a three-pointer with 5:40 to go in regulation to knot the score at 47-apiece. Moments earlier, his teammate Williams had drained a three-pointer to tie it at 43-all.

With a defender right in his grill, Evans came through again by nailing a jumper with 4:38 to go, pushing the Wildcats' advantage to 52-49. Meanwhile, Nansemond River, which shot 50% from the field in the first quarter and had made five three-pointers going into the game's last period, didn't make a field goal the final 4:49 of regulation.

"I couldn't ask for better teammates," Evans went on to say. "My teammates did a good job when I was struggling a little bit in the first half and kept us in the game. When the fourth quarter came, I knew I had to step up because they did for me all game, so at that point I had to give them something.

"It's a game of runs and Coach tells us that every time. We can't get down on ourselves when a team gets on a run. Even though they went up by 10, we knew we could play a lot better than we did, and we came out and showed that, which I think helped us get the victory. This is a win that will give us confidence going forward, not only in the district tournament, but hopefully into regionals, too."

While Evans is the star performer for Great Bridge night in and night out, perhaps the most underrated player in district is Williams, a potential First Team All-SED selection that has routinely scored in double-figures this season.

Two weeks after fouling on a three-point attempt late in the game against King's Fork that could've been costly, Williams was near flawless in crunch time. His game-high 16 points came one of his team's most important games of the season to date.

"Somebody had to step up scoring for the team and I feel like I have that role. It's about learning, getting better as a player and all of us getting better together as a team," remarked Williams, who chipped in 11 rebounds as well.

"They're a good rebounding team. They like to shoot and crash the boards, so we had to find a body, box out quick, go get the rebound and try to push it up the floor."

To start, Great Bridge couldn't find the touch from long range, misfiring on 14 of their first 15 three-point shots. Williams got them out of that funk with four treys.

"Sometimes Byron gets lost, but we know what we have here," Obenour added. "He is a hard-working kid and is the most improved player we have, and probably is one of the most improved players in the region. He worked very hard over the summer, made himself a better basketball player and now Great Bridge is taking advantage of the fruits of his labor."

Nansemond River dropped to 13-5 overall, 10-4 in the district and third place in the league, despite turning the ball over only twice the entire second half. The Warriors didn't have an answer for Great Bridge's terrific tandem on the perimeter, which combined to make three shots from long distance in the fourth quarter.

"Simply put, Evans showed why he is the best player in the district and a top five regional player, and in my mind, a Top 10 All-State performer," commented Nansemond River Head Basketball Coach Ed Young afterwards. "He played so poise, hit key shots when guarded, made the right pass, got a couple key rebounds and hit the free-throws as needed. But the Player of the Game may have been the Williams kid because every shot he hit was big."

Even though the district crown is within their sights, Great Bridge doesn't want to slow down. They know closing out the regular season strong is of the highest importance, plus they're trying to win the school's first Southeastern District Tournament title since 1978.

"I still want to win the last four games of this district. It's not going to be easy and kids seem to let up when they have a big lead as far as games ahead," Obenour admitted.

"We can't afford to do that and I want us to be playing our best towards the end. We want to get after the district tournament, we're not letting up, we want to get better and have momentum going into the regionals."

Postgame Audio with Great Bridge Coach Gary Obenour
Rod Johnson's Photo Feature on Facebook


Great Bridge 55:
Byron Williams - - 16Pts. 6-16FG, 4-10 3's, 11Reb. 2Stl.
Marcus Evans - - 15Pts. (7Pts. in 4thQ), 5-13FG, 4-5FT, 3Reb. 3Stl.
Mark Madison - - 10Pts. 3-6FG, 2-2 3's, 5Reb. 5Ast.
Steve Bienlien - - 9Pts. 3-7FG, 3-3FT, 6Reb. 3Blk.

Nansemond River 51:
Khalil Carroll - - 11Pts. 4-9FG, 3-6 3's, 5Ast.
Ed Drew - - 9Pts. 4-8FG, 1-4FT, 13Reb. 3Blk.
Scott Spencer - - 9Pts. 4-8FG, 5Ast.
Devon Oakley - - 8Pts. 2-11FG, 4-6FT, 3Reb. 2Ast. 3Blk.

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 protected], 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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