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February 13, 2013

Bruins Win Wild One

Bruins Edge Cats in Tourney Thriller: In one of the wilder, more entertaining games in recent memory in the Southeastern District Tournament, the fourth-seeded Western Branch Bruins prevailed late in the semifinals over the regular season Champion Great Bridge Wildcats, 71-69.

With the win, Western Branch moves to 17-7 overall and avenges two close defeats to Great Bridge by a total of just nine points. It's also their first victory over Great Bridge since 2008.

Western Branch trailed by five with 1:14 to go, though closed on a 10-2 spur with a steal and lay-up on the game's second to last possession to take the lead. Great Bridge raced up the court and got a bucket to fall that would've sent the game to overtime, except the refs waved it off, declaring it came after the buzzer.

The week has been a whirlwind for third-year Bruins Head Coach Chris Fuhrmann, who missed last Friday's narrow win over Deep Creek in the Southeastern District Tournament quarterfinals to witness the birth of his wife's baby while his team grabbed a regional playoff berth for a second season in a row.

"I told the guys in there that words can't even describe what this week has been like," Fuhrmann commented. "The emotion of having a baby on Friday, waiting to see whether or not we're going to win the game Friday, pull it out and then to try to re-group and get everybody focused for tonight. Then to play Great Bridge, who we've had classic games the last couple years against where it always comes down to the wire, to finally get one to go our way is unbelievable."

With the exception of a 22-point loss to Indian River, all of the other defeats to district opponents, particularly the league powers in Great Bridge, King's Fork and Nansemond River, were by six points or fewer. They then broke through on Nansemond River's Senior Night, rallying from 11 down in the fourth quarter to force overtime and win it on buzzer-beating tap-back. Now they've taken down another regional contender in the Wildcats.

"Those close losses we had early, we kept preaching that guys were going to learn from it and it would pay off down the stretch," Fuhrmann added. "One thing we've gotten much better is just the fact that we've been able to keep our head up, even after teams make big plays, knowing that we're capable of doing the same thing right back to them."

Player of the Game:
Western Branch senior guard Demonte Burns. There were several good choices, but Burns takes it with his go-ahead steal and bucket as the Player of the Game made the Play of the Game.

"It felt great. Truly one of the greatest feelings ever," Burns said of his game-winner. "I kind of thought I was going to get a steal because when they inbounded the ball I was thinking about not letting them get it back. I don't think we've been to this point since 2003. We did it this year with this team and we're playing real confident and ready right now."

His total stats for the night were there, too. Burns poured in a season-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, 3-for-5 from long distance and dished out six assists.

Keys to Victory & Hat's Notes:

#1 - - Branch's Trio Match the Wildcats Late: Great Bridge is known for keeping its poise and composure down the stretch, traits that have helped them win consecutive regular season district crowns. They did once again on Tuesday night, except Western Branch didn't crack down the stretch either and showed some coming of age themselves.

There were terrific efforts from 6-foot-3 senior center Jashad Jamison and sophomore guard Nigel Ribeiro to aid the Bruins' cause. Ribeiro had 11 points and two deep three-pointers along with three assists. Jamison finished with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds to go with five blocks, plus a powerful jam that made the crowd explode.

Jamison and Burns have been through a lot. The two went through tough times to start their careers, going 7-37 the first two seasons. Back-to-back regional playoff appearances feel sweet, especially for Burns, who had to work his way back from an injury. He suffered a Jones fracture in his foot that kept him sidelined the entire off-season.

"I've been so proud of Jamison and Burns, guys that have been with me for four years," Fuhrmann went on to say. "To watch them mature, grow and to see them play with that kind of confidence down the stretch, I can't be more proud. I told Demonte the other night that I've always felt like he's a son to me. To see him perform on a stage like that tonight is amazing."

#2 - - Bruins Take Care of the Rock:
In some of the games where the Bruins lost a lead late, it was largely due to turnovers. They had only 10 turnovers in this contest, but better yet, they shared the ball really well with 16 assists with 13 of them from their guards in Ribeiro, Burns and C.J. Thomas (CNU football commit).

When Western Branch takes care of the ball, they can score with the best around and that showed against a Great Bridge team that boasts the league's top defense.

#3 - - Great Numbers for Great Bridge Even in Defeat:
If someone had told Great Bridge Coach Gary Obenour his Wildcats would out-rebound Western Branch, shoot 8-of-15 from deep, turn it over just nine times and get 20 points apiece from Marcus Evans and Byron Williams, he would've thought they would win. It didn't turn out that way.

Evans was on his way to willing his team to victory. He scored eight points over the final two minutes of the third quarter. To go with his solid scoring game, he also posted nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.

"Evans is such a great player," Fuhrmann remarked. "He has such great body control that any little bump he makes it look like a foul. He does an excellent job, and he's big-time."

Championship Clash: The last time the Western Branch Bruins won the Southeastern District Tournament Championship was 2000. It's so long ago that many of the current players on the team were toddlers still in diapers. Plus, making it even more challenging is they'll be playing King's Fork, a team that has beaten twice already and it'll be on the Bulldogs' home court.

"It's going to be a tough one. We still have to show it on that stage. We've been telling the guys all year that we have the talent to do it, just got to play well enough together and really believe," Fuhrmann commented.

"We definitely want to keep riding this momentum, we're hot now and probably nobody really wants to play us. We've got a lot of weapons that we feel like if they're hot it's going to be tough covers for the other guys, and our defense is starting to get a little bit better as well."

Postgame Audio with Western Branch Coach Chris Fuhrmann

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 [email protected], 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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