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February 13, 2013

Freshmen Deliver for Woodside

Wolverines Win OT Thriller: In a physical game that featured countless fouls and 69 free-throws by the two teams combined, the fifth-seeded Woodside Wolverines outlasted the fourth-seeded Heritage Hurricanes 73-66 at home in overtime in the Peninsula District Tournament quarterfinals.

It was the rubber match between two Newport News schools that split during the regular season and have bright futures, each figuring to be teams to watch for to contend atop the league standings in years to come.

For Woodside, the win gives them their first berth to the Eastern Region playoffs since 2009.

"We're steadily finding ways to be consistent and I just think there's always going to be this measure of some inconsistency there. Ultimately, these guys know what time of the year it is and they're trying so hard, wanting to step up so bad," remarked Woodside Head Basketball Coach Erick Mays, in his second year at the helm of a program with a host of underclassmen on the its roster.

"Even though we're young and flying by the seat of our pants a little bit, there's nothing we haven't seen at this point. For what we lack in experience, the experience we have gained up to this point is huge. We're doing a good job of playing together, battling and we feel fortunate to come out on top."

Player of the Game:
Woodside freshman forward Chris Orlina. The 6-foot-5 ninth grader played like a seasoned vet in posting totals of 26 points (10 more than anyone else in the game), nine rebounds and a pair of blocks.

Coming off the bench, Orlina was virtually unguardable when he caught the ball deep in the low block. Heritage had no answer for him.

"The kid's got ice water in his veins," Mays went on to say. "He kind of knows what the deal is, but he doesn't know what the deal is. When he's locked in, focused and ready to roll, he's as good as anybody around. He stepped up pretty big and was really motivated right from jump-street. We're really good when he does that."

When Orlina was inserted into the game, Heritage led 9-2. By half-time, he had 10 points and the Hurricanes' lead was just 33-27. Late in the third quarter, he scored four points in a row and gave Woodside its first lead since 2-0.

Maybe what jumped out most besides his great skill level for his age and ability to score around or through contact is that he played overtime with four fouls and didn't foul out. It didn't disturb the flow he was in, and he consistently got matchups he wanted in the paint, often drawing a whistle.

"I got used to the flow of varsity level and felt more comfortable in [late December]. Coach Mays gave me more confidence by running plays for me," said Orlina.

"I look at my defender and base my game off that as far as if it's someone smaller than me I try to take them to the post. If it's someone my size, I look to take them off the dribble and use my instincts."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Freshmen Shine Under Pressure: Orlina wasn't the only outstanding freshman playing exceedingly well for Woodside. Point guard Devante Carter made some superb plays with the basketball. When Heritage decided to double down on the young big man, Carter and senior guard Trevor Lyons, who'll play his College Basketball at Air Force, took matters in their own hands.

That was especially important for Woodside once Ray Jackson and Jazz Johnson, two starters that accounted for 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals, fouled out of the game.

"We stuck together," remarked Carter. "Even when we started to fall apart at the end of the third quarter, we talked through it and kept working. Being a freshman, I got nervous, but we really wanted to win and kept digging until the game was over and we pulled it out. I'm glad we won and I didn't want our seniors to leave without this one.

To go with Lyons' 12 points, five boards and five assists, Carter put up 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Not bad for a point guard in his first playoff game against a Heritage team that came in red hot, having won 10 of its last 11.

"I just try to play my role and make the plays I'm supposed to make," added Carter. "I follow Trevor and try to play within the flow of things as best as possible."

#2 - - Second Chance Points:
There were 27 rebounds up for grabs on Woodside misses and the Wolverines came up with 12 offensive boards compared to 15 defensive boards for Heritage. That loomed largely in a back-and-forth, competitive game that was up for grabs with the Canes leading 42-40 to start the fourth quarter.

"At half-time, we talked about the 50/50 balls, rebounds, loose balls and the little things," Mays pointed out. "We said guys it's the little things that's going to separate these two teams and who's going to win and who's going to lose. I thought we did a great job in the second half of coming up with those rebounds, making some good plays defensively by flying around out there and hustling."

While Heritage got 18 points and three steals from senior guard Marquise Johnson and 12 points and four three-pointers (a season-high) from another senior guard Daniel Gibson, they didn't have anyone with more than five rebounds for the evening. Woodside also did a good job of keeping Heritage sophomore Romello Anderson, a star in the making, out of the painted; the swingman ended up with 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting with three boards.

#3 - - Wolverines Capitalize at the FT Line:
Although the percentages were relatively similar at night's end, Woodside made the most of its trips to the free-throw line. The Wolverines were 25-of-38 with Orlina going 10-for-13. Carter also made it there 13 times, meaning the two young guns got 26 freebies. That's way too many if you're Heritage and hope to win.

The Hurricanes went 18-of-31 and made some key ones late to keep it close after losing the lead, but they entered the fourth period 5-of-13. If they had made a few more, their lead would've been bigger and the game may not have seen OT, bur rather Heritage's first region playoff trip since 2004.

Postgame Comments from Woodside Coach Erick Mays

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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