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February 15, 2013

Green Run Sweeps Landstown

Green Run Sweeps Landstown: For the second time this season, the Green Run Stallions toppled one of their city rivals. The fourth-seeded Stallions edged the top-seeded Landstown Eagles, 47-43 in Thursday night's Beach District Tournament semifinals at Ocean Lakes High School.

After Landstown battled back from nine points down to tie the score, Green Run junior Keon Buchanan scored the next bucket to give the Stallions the lead with 2:03 to play, sparking a 6-0 run that gave them the breathing room they needed to hold on for the win.

"It was a dogfight and I knew coming into it that it would be one," remarked Green Run Head Basketball Coach Kenneth Harris.

"I knew Landstown would sit back in a zone. They didn't foul [much] and we didn't get to attack as much as they did. We just want to make sure we're playing good basketball going into the regionals. These kids are working hard, they want it and they know how important it is. It's for the Green Run community."

With the win, Green Run moves its record to 19-5 overall. Landstown drops to 20-5 overall. The Stallions will look to capture their first Beach District Tournament Championship since 2008 when they take on second-seeded Kellam on Friday night.

Player of the Game:
Green Run senior guard Lequan Thomas. Scoring 12 points in a game wouldn't seem like an incredible amount, but in a gam where both teams scored under 50 and it shared game-high honors from the point guard position for a player not known for scoring a bunch, those were valuable.

Even more influential than his points were the plays he made defensively, coming up with five steals.

"I was going into the game confident," Thomas admitted. "This is my last time with my boys and I told them I love them and we have to play to win. We're not trying to travel somewhere to play in Suffolk or Chesapeake. We want to play closer to home so we can get the support and the momentum."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Pressure Defense: It's rare that in a game featuring Landstown, the Eagles are the ones turning it over against the press because usually they are the team that give opponents fits with its variety of traps and presses. That turned out to be the case as they committed 22 turnovers, including seven in the first quarter alone.

It was Green Run's defensive pressure that never allowed the Eagles to gain control of the game and play at the pace they wanted in order to dictate the action.

"I thought we could press them a little bit," believed Harris. "They made us get out of the press a little bit. It's going to be a tough battle with Landstown and Green Run basketball. Both teams are going to want to get every steal, everything's important and turnovers are big when we play."

The energy of Thomas defensively was infectious and contagious.

"They call me the key to the defense. They say when I turn it up, everybody turns it up. When I start playing D' then everybody does," Thomas pointed out. "We try to turn it up from the beginning of the game until the end of the game."

#2 - - Front-Line Does Enough: The backcourt for Green Run is clearly its backbone with Thomas and Tyler Blount, the Beach's leader in three-pointers made with nearly 70 on the year, as well as Buchanan on the wing. But facing a Landstown team that features a pair of quality big men in senior Andre Stanley and 6-foot-8 sophomore Darius Bolstad, it was crucial that their trio of underclassmen on the front-line performed well.

The threesome of junior Shaun James, sophomore Kevin Holmes and freshman Sterling Carrington gave Green Run 13 points, six boards and three assists. They also give Coach Harris 15 fouls among the three to use.

"It was important that are bigs play well because Landstown's bigs are good and they rebound. Their wings rebound hard and I felt like when we went big that helped," Harris remarked.

"When Kevin came into the game, he hit a 3 that stopped the bleeding. Sterling came in and rebounded, Shaun played a good game and they look out for each other. They have each other's back."

#3 - - Limit Damage from Deep: Over the years, Landstown has burned its opponent with three-point shots and they have two players in Cameron Alston and Sebastian Sandifer that can turn the tide of a game quickly. It nearly happened on a couple of occasions in the second half, but the Eagles finished 3-of-12 from long distance, below their average on the season.

Green Run shot 4-for-17 from behind the arc.

Wrap Up:
Green Run dodged a couple bullets in this game as Landstown went to the foul line in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the score or take the lead and missed the front-end of a one-and-one opportunity. Then again, the Stallions also were up comfortably by eight when they turned it over seven times in a span of nine possessions in the second quarter when it looked like they might go up by double-figures and cruise.

There are some positives for Coach Harris to feel good about going into regionals, but also some things they must clean up or they could be one and done. Potentially, the team can play with anyone in the region, but their shot selection has to be better at times and they need all three of their perimeter parts (Thomas, Buchanan and Blount) to be in sync simultaneously. If that happens, they can make it to Scope and contend with anyone. Defensively, they were pretty sound.

Claiming the #2 seed is imperative for the Stallions as it would allow them to play in Virginia Beach in the opening round of regionals rather than go to Chesapeake as the #3 seed to play the Southeastern District Tournament Champ, either King's Fork or Western Branch.

"Coach was talking to us before the game asking us what do you all want Green Run to remember you as? What do you three seniors want, do you want a banner? This is your last year the Beach District Tournament has a tournament like this because next year it opens up to conferences with Norfolk teams and Portsmouth teams. We're trying to get a banner in our gym," Thomas commented.

For Landstown, they are always a team that plays with effort and intensity, especially on the defensive end of the court. What had to frustrate Coach Dwight Robinson was the fact they turned it over so much when they could've taken the lead and won. Their chemistry and cohesiveness has been great down the stretch, but like every contending team in the Eastern Region this year, they have some holes and flaws that can be exploited.

It's a dangerous first round regional matchup for the Eagles as they play host to Nansemond River, a team that beat them three years ago when arguably the Warriors were less talented than they are now and Landstown had more experienced talent than they do now. As long as Landstown utilizes its big men and makes it a lower scoring, defensive battle, they should be fine and move on to the next round. From there, a possible quarterfinal matchup with Hampton would really test their backcourt.

Postgame Audio with Green Run Coach Kenneth Harris

Final Stats:

Green Run 47: (19-5 overall)
Lequan Thomas - - 12Pts. 5-9FG, 2-2FT, 3Reb. 2Ast. 5Stl.
Tyler Blount - - 10Pts. 4-15FG, 2-10 3's, 2Reb.
Shaun James - - 8Pts. 4-6FG, 5Reb.
Keon Buchanan - - 6Pts. 3-7FG, 5Reb.

Landstown 43: (20-5 overall)
Andre Stanley - - 12Pts. 5-10FG, 2-6FG, 13Reb.
Sebastian Sandifer - - 11Pts. 3-13FG, 3-4FT, 3Reb.
Cameron Alston - - 8Pts. 3-5FG
Darius Bolstad - - 6Pts. 0-3FG, 6-6FT, 2Reb.

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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