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February 15, 2013

Commodores Move to 20-3

Commodores Finish Strong at Norview: Trailing by seven early in the fourth quarter at Norview against the third-seeded Pilots, the second-seeded Maury Commodores were on the road and in jeopardy of falling to the #3 seed for next week's Eastern Region Tournament.

Maury then scored the next night points and doubled up Norview 28-14 over the game's final seven minutes to prevail, 74-67. They did so without the services of 6-foot-5 junior center/forward Jaleel Ferguson for much of the game.

An All-Eastern District First team performer and younger brother of Jamal Ferguson from Marquette, Jaleel went down with a severely sprained ankle in the first quarter and did not return. His status for their next game is unknown.

Going into the fourth quarter, Norview had made 7-of-17 three-pointers to get the home crowd energized. The likes of Mike Gadson, Raekwon Johnson and D'Shaun Thomas did serious damage from the perimeter, and Maury was searching for answers. In the fourth quarter, they made only 2-of-9 from deep.

"We just told them we've got to get out on the shooters, particularly #11 [Gadson]," said Maury Head Basketball Coach Jack Baker. "You can't leave him and have to find him even though we're in the zone. We did a better job of that in the fourth quarter."

The win moves Maury's record to 20-3 overall. They will open up in the first round of regionals against Phoebus, the #3 seed from the Peninsula District, in a 6:00 PM game at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk.

Baker is pleased with the progression, given how much youth is on the roster and that they had to replace such an integral part of their offensive success the past two seasons in Jamal Ferguson.

"I think we've grown as a team. Beginning of the year, if you had told us we'd be 20-3 right now, I would've taken that just because of our inexperience," Baker remarked.

"We're counting on guys who really haven't played a lot of varsity basketball. With the exception of Mike Basnight or Jaleel, there wasn't a whole lot of experience. As the season has gone along, they've gotten to play much better together and they've defined their roles better than earlier in the year."

Player of the Game:
Maury 5-foot-9 junior guard Mike Basnight. The game's leading scorer with 25 points, Basnight scored 13 of those points in the fourth quarter to go with seven rebounds, six assists and there steals.

During the pivotal 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that took Maury from down seven to up two, Basnight scored or assisted on seven of those points.

"This was an important game and we knew we had to win this one. I had to take over in the fourth [quarter] with Jaleel out. I had to get my teammates involved and look to score," Basnight stated. "Everybody's playing together and we've got great chemistry."

"I thought Mike really stepped up. With Jaleel out with the bad ankle, he had to step up and he did. He made some plays for us and some clutch free-throws down the stretch."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Dribble Drive: Much of Maury's offense is predicated on taking it to the hole, and if and when the defense collapses, kick it out to an open shooter, often being Basnight or Jalon Williams, who had 13 points on the night.

In the fourth period, Maury did that to perfection, getting pretty much any shot they wanted. They converted 10-of-12 field goals in the game's final quarter.

"We really didn't change a whole lot," Baker replied when asked how they had to adjust with Ferguson injured. We've got Shyheim Draughan to put in there, although he's not as experienced. We played more zone than we normally do without Jaleel. Other than that, offensively we didn't change much. We tried to get the dribble drive going and kicking out."

#2 - - Bench Lift:
On the night, Norview got 33 points from its bench with 18 coming from Gadson alone. Normally, that would be enough to get the victory. In the absence of Ferguson, Maury got some reserves to give them quality minutes and some scoring production in the aforementioned Draughan, Anthony Smith and Avontae Ferguson.

That trio accounted for 11 points, and more importantly, gathered in 14 rebounds, only giving Norview one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter. Norview's six backups that played combined for 12 boards.

#3 - - Maury's Freshman Outduels Norview's Ninth Grader:
Two of the Eastern Region's top prospects to watch out for in the Class of 2016 were on display with Maury's Anthony Williams and Norview's Jaylen Frazier.

Williams, called by some fans a 'Baby Doe-Doe,' as a comparison to a mini version of former Norcom State Player of the Year Dorian Finney-Smith, who's now playing College Basketball at Florida, was stellar throughout. For the night, he finished with 15 points, made all six of his free-throw attempts, hit a critical three-pointer in the fourth quarter, made two steals and had a steal to boot.

"He's gotten better every game," Baker said. "These last two weeks, he's been if not our best player, probably right up there. He's really playing well right now and has a bright future. He can be a great one."

Frazier as limited to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting and had five rebounds. Ironically, he's the younger brother of former Maury standout Sim Frazier, who's now at Howard.

Williams' slithery moves in the paint, slashing ability and athleticism set him apart from many of the better freshmen around already.

Hurdle to Climb: Maury has 20 victories on the season. They've only lost to one team, district rival Norcom. Against the Greyhounds, their record is 0-3. The two schools were co-Champions of the Eastern District, but Norcom won the tie-breaker to grab the automatic berth to the Eastern Region Tournament and the #1 seed that goes with it to give them a home game in Monday's opening round of play.

Maury and Norcom will play for a fourth time on Friday night for the Eastern District Tournament title at Churchland High School.

"Going into Friday, they've beaten us three times. It's got to change sooner or later. They can win this one, but let me win the regional one," Baker quipped. "How about that?"

Norcom has won nine consecutive meetings over Maury. The Commodores' last victory over the Greyhounds came in the 2010 Eastern District Tournament Championship, where Maury rolled 61-43. Norcom later went on to claim the region title and their first of back-to-back State Championships.

What will be the key to the Commodores having success this time against Norcom and making noise in the region playoffs after an early exit a year ago?

"Something we haven't been doing lately is playing defense and rebounding. We were doing that a lot better earlier in the year," Basnight noted. "We just have to get back to our principles and we should be okay."

Postgame Audio with Maury Coach Jack Baker

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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