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February 10, 2013

Truckers Prevail, Earn Region Bid

Truckers Headed to the Dance: Trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Churchland Truckers' season appeared to be ending on Saturday night. The fourth-seeded Truckers were getting out-played and out-hustled in virtually every facet of the game by the fifth-seeded Lake Taylor Titans, a squad Churchland beat 74-67 in late January.

After shooting only 6-of-26 from the floor in the first half, the Truckers made 59.3% of their shots in the second half (16-of-27), erasing the double-digit deficit. Churchland completed the comeback by outscoring Lake Taylor 21-10 in the fourth quarter, prevailing 57-53.

With the win, Churchland moves to 12-11 overall and secures a region playoff spot, much to the delight of Head Coach Pat Dulin.

"It's always special when you can get to the regional tournament," remarked Dulin afterwards. "This is actually only the sixth time in school history that we've made it, missed it the last two years and I can't say enough about this group. This is a good group of guys and it was a special night for Churchland basketball."

Lake Taylor's season ends at 12-10 overall. The Titans have now missed the regional playoffs seven times over the past nine years.


Player of the Game:
Churchland senior Dre Demiel. The 6-foot-1 guard played with poise when the Truckers needed him to, shaking off a 1-of-9 start from the field to finish with 21 points and seven rebounds. Demiel made 6-of-8 from the floor in the second half, plus did a commendable job defensively.

"I call him our silent assassin," Dulin noted. "He doesn't say much, but he's always under control, his body language is under control and does everything we need on the court, whether it's distributing the ball, scoring. I've said it many times we'll go as far as he takes us. Down the stretch, he led us like a true senior would do."

Being recruited by a host of Division II and Division III schools, Demiel is still searching for his first scholarship offer. His play in the second half certainly made him look like a next-level prospect, being in total control of the offense as the Truckers turned it over only four times over the game's final two quarters.

Demiel drew back on his experience in his ninth grade year, the last time the Truckers made it to the regional tournament.

"My freshman year, we were down in this game and actually came back to beat Booker T. We used that as motivation, and all season long we had to fight back from everything. Basically, most of our regular season games we were down at the half and had to battle back, so we're used to playing from behind," Demiel stated.

"In the first half, I was forcing it, and Coach told me in the locker room to be patient and let the game come to me."


Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Deflections Spark CHS: When Churchland began to make its comeback in the second half and take the lead early in the fourth quarter, what ignited them was their defensive intensity, jumping out in the passing lanes and getting deflections that led to steals.

Keying that were the likes of Demiel, bouncy senior Jaman Hoskie and quick junior Lorenzo Rodgers, who also dished out a few gorgeous assists.

"It increased our transition game," Dulin said of the deflections. "In the first half, I don't think we had a transition lay-up. The second half, we were able to get to the rack a lot better and got some nice drops down to the post, and we were able to get to the foul line. That was the biggest difference."

#2 - - Control the Titans' Star: Coming into the game, Lake Taylor junior guard Treyvond Lockhart led the Eastern District in scoring at 18.9 points per game. A couple of his offensive outbursts occurred against Churchland, and a third one would likely extend the Titans' season and end the Truckers'.

Churchland center its attention on keeping Lockhart from burning them again. He finished up with 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

"All week, we didn't even practice the offense and went over defense, defense, defense, and stop Lockhart," Demiel pointed out. "The first two games I think he gave us 30 both games, so that was our main focus."

#3 - - Cherry on Top: Moving on to the district tournament semifinals probably wouldn't have been possible for Churchland without the offensive contributions of one Lorenzo Cherry. The junior wing delivered a strong performance with 20 points, ten in each half, nailing a pair of three-pointers and corralling a team-high eight rebounds.

Cherry has developed into a dependable offensive threat for a Truckers team that was yearning for a complement to Demiel.

"This is his first year of organized ball. That's either his sixth or seventh 20-point game," Dulin said of Cherry. "He's had two games where he's had six 3's for us. If we can get him to give a consistent effort every night, he will be somebody special to watch next season."


Another Date with Norcom: Back in January, the Truckers ended a 22-game losing streak to Norcom, their nearby rival, by defeating the Greyhounds for the first time since 2003. Norcom is red hot, having won six in a row and trying to capture its sixth district tournament crown in seven years.

Meanwhile, Churchland wants to play for the final Eastern District Tournament Championship and do so on its home floor.

"I've been a sleeper all my life and my team's always been an underdog. We're blue-collar workers. We come every day, play hard and that's the same way we're going to approach Norcom. Yeah, we beat them, but that doesn't mean anything. That was a month and a half ago," Dulin commented.

"It's a Portsmouth rivalry. They're going to show up with their A-game and we're coming with the same thing. I'm happy we get to play them because it means a lot to the kids to play against Norcom."


Postgame Audio with Churchland Coach Pat Dulin

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 hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.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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