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February 22, 2013

LIVE Friday Blog at VCU!

12:13 AM:  Well, it was another tremendous day of basketball at the Verizon Wireless Arena on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University as the Siegel Center played host to some exciting action.  We know three teams, two on the boys side and one on the girls side, that will be playing in the Final Four on Monday.

Boys AAA State Quarters Final - - Henrico 65, Kecoughtan 64
Girls AAA State Quarters Final - - Lake Taylor 68, Highland Springs 55
Boys AAA State Quarters Final - - Wakefield 83, Mountain View 76

A perfect 3-0 for my picks on the day it was.  I'll be back on Friday night from ODU for LIVE Blogging of more AAA State Tournament Quarterfinals with Great Bridge facing John Marshall in a Boys matchup and Princess Anne taking on L.C. Bird in the Girls matchup.

11:05 PM:  The Henrico Warriors edged the Kecoughtan Warriors in dramatic fashion, 65-64 in the AAA State Tournament quarterfinals at the VCU Siegel Center, rallying from nine down to win with 3:45 left.

Here are the numbers from STATVA (www.statva.com) below.

Final Stats:

Henrico Warriors 65:  (28-2 Overall)
Timmy Jones - - 22Pts. 8-17FG, 5-6FT, 3Reb. 3Stl.
Marvin Smith Jr. - - 14Pts. 5-13FG, 2-2FT, 13Reb. 2Stl.
Jordon Talley - - 10Pts. 3-14FG, 3-3FT, 2Reb. (Fouled Out)
R.J. Moses - - 6Pts. 3-13FG, 4Reb.
De'Monte Buckingham - - 5Pts. 1-4FG, 2-2FT, 7Reb. 3Ast. 2Stl.
Warriors - - 22-67FG, 5-24 3's, 16-19FT, 35Reb. 9Ast. 9TO's, 2Blk. 9Stl.

Kecoughtan Warriors 64:  (25-6 Overall)
Rajay Bullock - - 18Pts. 5-9FG, 2-4 3's, 6-8FT, 10Reb. 4Stl.
Greg Alexander - - 18Pts. 5-11FG, 2-6 3's, 6-10FT, 5Reb.
Lawrence Williams - - 11Pts. 5-7FG, 1-2FT, 5Reb.
Marcell Haskett - - 9Pts. 3-7FG, 3-4FT, 5Reb.
Warriors - - 21-40FG, 5-16 3's, 17-28FT, 31Reb. 5Ast. 19TO's, 5Blk. 9Stl.

Postgame Audio with Henrico Coach Vance Harmon
Postgame Sound with Henrico's Tim Jones & Marvin Smith

Final Analysis:  Talk about a gut-wrenching way to lose a game, Kecoughtan's players and coaches are going to be feeling pain for a long, long time after this one.  Seemingly, the Warriors out-played their Warrior counterparts from Henrico for 28 of the game's 32 minutes.  However, Henrico had the heart of warriors down the stretch, especially their senior leaders in Jones and Smith with Talley out of the game.

Also stepping for Henrico were a few of their supporting cast parts we can't forget about in Booker, Moses, Buckingham and reserve Brandon Towner, whose steal enabled Henrico to claim the lead late.  Henrico played with so much toughness in crunch time.  A few key stats of note that jump out to me . . .

For one, Henrico made 10-of-11 from the foul line in the second half, while Kecoughtan went just 9-for-17.  Kecoughtan's 19 turnovers were too many, but worse than that was only two assists the whole second half.  They got into too much of a one-on-one game, which gets teams in trouble, especially trying to close the deal against a team with the resiliency and experience of playing in big gams like Henrico has. 

Furthermore, Henrico helped out its cause significantly by keeping Bullock to single-digit free-throws AND out-rebounding Kecoughtan in the second half.  In a matchup that was billed as the speed of Henrico vs. the size of Kecoughtan, one gave way at the end, but in the other, Henrico didn't let Kecoughtan exploit them inside when it mattered most.

10:55 PM:  An unbelievable finish in the Group AAA State Tournament quarterfinals as the Henrico Warriors have rallied from nine down with 3:45 to play to stun, and I mean STUN, the Kecoughtan Warriors tonight.

Down by three with 10.5 seconds to go, Providence signee Rajay Bullock took a three-pointer for Kecoughtan that missed, but he got his own rebound and attacked the rim, where he scored for a deuce.  Looking for the foul, there was none, and from my vantage point, there wasn't much if any contact.  Time ran out and Henrico survived to move on to Monday's State Semis, where they will play either Battlefield or W.T. Woodson.

The most amazing thing about this comeback is that Henrico did it without one of their main leaders at the guard spot in Jordon Talley, who fouled out.  But behind senior guard Timmy Jones (who has the heart of a lion) made several big plays down the stretch to set up Brandon Towner's clutch steal and Marvin Smith's go-ahead bucket.

AAA BOYS QUARTERS FINAL SCORE - - HENRICO 65, KECOUGHTAN 64

We'll have Final Stats and more in a little bit, stay tuned!

10:50 PM:  Kecoughtan is trying to hang on, leading Henrico 62-61 with 1:12 left in what has turned into an exciting State Tournament quarterfinal battle here at VCU.  Rajay Bullock just rejected a Timmy Jones shot a moment ago, but the Warriors can't turn it over or have a defensive lapse or else Henrico will steal this game after trailing by nine with 3:45 to play.

Under a minute to go and Kecoughtan is trying to run out the clock.  Can they do it?  Henrico is trying to steal this one without senior Jordon Talley, who fouled out.  With 44 seconds to go, Henrico's Brandon Towner, an unknown reserve, gets a steal for Henrico.  Marvin Smith Jr. scores for Henrico to give them the lead with 28 seconds to play, 63-62 on Kecoughtan.

Rajay Bullock misses a three-pointer for Kecoughtan and Timmy Jones is fouled with 10.5 second left.  Jones makes them both and Henrico is in the lead, 65-62.  Now, Kecoughtan's season is on the line and they have to get a three-pointer to save it and force overtime.

10:45 PM:  Well, maybe this one isn't over just yet as Henrico makes three straight free-throws, and then when Tim Jones misses on his second foul shot attempt, he grabs the loose ball and sticks it back in to take a nine-point deficit down to just 58-54 in favor of Kecoughtan.  We've still got 3:26 left in the ball-game.

Kecoughtan cannot get sloppy now because even with Jordon Talley having fouled out, you know Henrico is going to look to press.  With 2:25 left, it's Kecoughtan on top 61-54 and the three-point shot needs to be Henrico's friend.  There's Timmy Jones firing up a trey and it's good to cut the Kecoughtan lead down to 61-57 approaching two minutes left.

With 2:06 to go, Henrico makes two at the foul line and Kecoughtan hits 1-of-2.  Kecoughtan is up only three at 62-59.  Now, it's down to 62-61 with 1:45 left after a steal by Henrico and Ryan Pearson lay-up.  The crowd here in Richmond is getting into it and Kecoughtan is starting to show some nerves down the stretch.

10:40 PM:  The Kecoughtan Warriors are in position to move on to the AAA State Tournament Final Four on Monday against either Battlefield or W.T. Woodson.  Rajay Bullock hits two foul shots with 4:09 to play and he's been a true Warrior tonight, taking a beating and some body blows all over the place.

Perhaps the most devastating thing that could happen to Henrico just did as senior guard Jordon Talley fouled out with 3:45 to go and the Warriors down seven.  Compounding matters is that he fouled Greg Alexander, Kecoughtan's best shooter with nearly 70 3's on the year coming into this one, on a three-point attempt.  Alexander makes 2-of-3 to give Kecoughtan a 58-49 lead.  Henrico then hits a pair of free-throws with 3:30 to play, trimming that deficit to 58-51.

10:35 PM:  Free-throw shooting is going to be monumental down the stretch my Internet friends.  Kecoughtan is nursing a seven-point lead with 4:22 to go and Jordon Talley steps to the charity stripe.  Some blood on the arm of Rajay Bullock it appears and about three or four assistants for the Warriors rush, and I mean RUSH, over to him because they know that him leaving the game for any extended period of time means the world could come to an end (okay, I'm only joking about that part… but my point is he means THE WORLD to them).

Bullock checks back in after Talley converts two free-throws and Henrico drops back into its 2-2-1 press. 

10:30 PM:  At the start of the fourth quarter, it's the Microwave Man, that's Lawrence Williams, scoring a field goal for Kecoughtan to give them a six-point advantage.  Rajay Bullock adds to his steal total (he has at least four) and then he makes 1-of-2 at the charity stripe to give Kecoughtan a 50-43 advantage.

Kecoughtan could've gotten a big defensive stop and an opportunity to go up by nine or ten, but it's Marvin Smith with a much-needed stick-back for Henrico.  Even though Kecoughtan has played a shaper game to this point, Henrico is hanging around and will be awfully difficult to close out in the final three or four minutes with the amount of senior experience they have in Smith, Tim Jones and Jordon Talley.

As long as Kecoughtan doesn't succumb to the defensive pressure and gets it done at the free-throw line, they'll be moving on to Monday's State Final Four against either Battlefield or W.T. Woodson.  Kecoughtan leads it 54-47 with 5:37 to go after four straight points from ECU signee Greg Alexander, a real catalyst with his stroke and calm demeanor.

10:25 PM:  To make a comeback, it starts with defense and Henrico got a huge play courtesy of freshman De'Monte Buckingham, who draws a charge on a drive by Marcell Haskett for a lay-up that would've put Kecoughtan up 10.  Buckingham then gets a steal and finds Tim Jones for a lay-up and now Kecoughtan's lead is shrinking.

You can sense the momentum shifting.  A block by Rajay Bullock, which appeared to maybe be goal-tending, keeps Henriico from moving within one.  Blink once or twice and Henrico can go from down nine to having a chance to tie the ballgame.  That's how fast they score.  Two three-point tries by Jones and Jordon Talley that could've tied the game are off the mark, and Kecoughtan will try to hold onto a three-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

The press by Henrico is starting to bother Kecoughtan substantially as the Warriors are playing shaky with the basketball and turning it over or making ill-advised decisions.

End 3rdQ - - Kecoughtan 47, Henrico 43

10:20 PM:  Believe it or not, Henrico is having trouble stopping the ball as Kecoughtan has pushed its lead up to eight at 46-38 with two minutes left in this third quarter.  Marvin Smith Jr. briefly cut the Kecoughtan lead to just three with 4:05 to go in the third quarter on a three-pointer, but back came Rajay Bullock, a guy that has that determined look about him, trying to lead his team to a state title.

Bullock drained a three-pointer, and then it was senior power forward Kaelin Poe with a bucket in the low block.  R.J. Moses, a reserve that has been a vital contributor for Henrico all year long, scored to cut the Kecoughtan lead to eight at 46-38.

With two minutes left in the third quarter, Kecoughtan is still up by three possessions and Henrico has to figure out a way to contain all of the weapons the Warriors from the 757 have, most notably Bullock.

10:15 PM:  To get back in the game and erase this nine-point deficit, Henrico is going to need some fast-break baskets and be able to hang with a much taller, longer Kecoughtan on the glass.  Henrico gets the first field goal of the second half thanks to Timmy Jones, but the Warriors of Kecoughtan answer that on a jumper from Rajay Bullock.

Freshman De'Monte Buckingham, who has a solidly built frame for a ninth grader, connects from three-point land for Henrico to trim the Warriors' lead to 39-33.  A travelling violation by Kecoughtan with 4:28 remaining gives Henrico a chance to pull within four or even one possession down on a three-point play.  Kecoughtan's guards have to smart decision makers and maintain their poise and composure to stay in front.

10:05 PM:  Well, an exciting first half is in the books and it's Kecoughtan up nine on Henrico so far, getting steady contributions from several different players.  A fantastic Henrico season is on the line here and we'll see what they're made of in this second half.

Here are the numbers at the break from Chris Jones & STATVA (www.statva.com)

Stats at the Half:

Kecoughtan 37:
Lawrence Williams - - 9Pts. 4-6FG, 1-2FT, 4Reb.
Rajay Bullock - - 8Pts. 2-2FG, 3-4FT, 7Reb. 2Blk. 3Stl.
Greg Alexander - - 8Pts. 3-6FG, 1-3 3's, 2Reb.
Marcell Haskett - - 6Pts. 2-5FG, 2-2FT, 3Reb.
Warriors - - 13-23FG, 3-10 3's, 8-11FT, 19Reb. 3Ast. 9TO's, 3Blk. 4Stl.

Henrico 28:
Tim Jones - - 6Pts. 3-7FG
Jordon Talley - - 5Pts. 2-8FG, 1-2 3's, 2Reb.
Stephen Booker - - 5Pts. 1-2FG, 3-4FT, 2Ast.
Marvin Smith Jr. - - 5Pts. 2-7FG, 6Reb.
Warriors - - 10-33FG, 2-12 3's, 6-8FT, 15Reb. 5Ast. 5TO's, 3Stl.

Henrico started to fall in love with the three-point shot just a tad too much for my liking, but it's hard to fault them because of how well Kecoughtan is protecting the rim with their length and size affecting shots in the paint.  Bullock in particular has been a force as a shot blocker underneath, plus is a problem offensively because of his inside-outside skills, draining a three-pointer in that half.

If the Warriors of Henrico can't get someone to be a go-to guy and take over offensively, it might spell doom.  That's a weird thing to say since balance is the main reason for their success, but Bullock and Alexander together are quite a tandem, and then Alexander is becoming a secret weapon off the bench with his production as of late.  The most frightening thing for Henrico is they've turned Kecoughtan over nine times and still trail by nine, which isn't a good sign if Kecoughtan doesn't turn the ball over much in the second half.

9:58 PM:  The Kecoughtan Warriors are up by double-figures against the Central Region Champion Henrico Warriors thanks to an 11-2 spurt in which the Warriors got a pair of three-pointers from their two D-1 studs - - Rajay Bullock (Providence) and Greg Alexander (ECU).  Lawrence Williams, a major sparkplug off the bench, also added a deuce in that stretch.

Other than a couple of baskets from R.J. Moses in the second quarter, the Henrico offense has been somewhat sluggish to say the least as they can't get outside shots to fall like they did in the early moments of the first quarter.  They did have a chance with under a minute to go to pull within five, but Tim Jones' three-pointer bounced off the front of the rim.

Bullock, who has been a monster defensively, swatting shots and changing others, hit a free-throw before the end of the half.

AAA Quarters at the Half - - Kecoughtan 37, Henrico 28

We'll have some numbers momentarily - - stay tuned!

9:53 PM:  Slowly but surely, Henrico is starting to ease its way back into this one to where they have a shot to claim the lead before half-time.  That's exactly what Coach Vance Harmon is hoping for, given that Kecoughtan has played a better first half to this point.  A leaner by Timmy Jones pulls Henrico within a point.

A scary moment just a few seconds ago as Providence signee Rajay Bullock is off to the races before he is fouled hard by Henrico's Jordon Talley and hits the floor with a thud.  It wasn't a dirty play, but it did warrant a flagrant if you ask me just because of where the contact was made.  I don't think it was intentional or meant in a malicious manner, but that should've been called a flagrant because it came around the head area (just my opinion).

Nonetheless, the officials disagree (that's why I'm not a ref and I definitely don't want that job!!) and Bullock makes two at the foul line to push the Kecoughatn lead to 27-24.  Lawrence Williams makes 1-of-2 at the line to make it 28-24.  I sense a run is coming from one of these two sides, not sure which though.

9:49 PM:  Kecoughtan is on a hot streak as three-point plays from reserve guard William  Askew, whose confidence has grown as the season has progressed, and Greg Alexander give those Warriors a 22-16 lead over the Henrico Warriors nearing the 7 minute mark of the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Henrico has gotten kind of stagnant offensively with only one field goal over a five minute stretch in this first half.  They will have to get someone on their bench, maybe an R.J. Moses or Ryan Pearson, to provide a pick-me-up, much like Askew and Lawrence Williams have done for Kecoughtan.  Marvin Smith Jr. breaks the dry spell for Henrico with a field goal at the 6:15 mark, but Alexander answers with a basket.  Moses scores to cut the Kecoughtan lead to 24-20.

At the 4:12 mark of the second quarter, it's Kecoughtan on top 25-22.

9:42 PM:  To close the first quarter, Lawrence Williams gets his third field goal (fyi - - he was 21-of-31 from the field over the past three games at Scope) to give Kecoughtan a lead, but underrated x-factor Stephen Booker knots the score up at 16.

End 1stQ - - Kecoughtan 16, Henrico 16

Henrico has done a good job of locking down Greg Alexander, the #2 scoring threat for the Warriors of Kecoughtan behind Providence signee Rajay Bullock.  But the discouraging part of that for Henrico is that he's bound to get his offensive game going at some point and they have to be able to combat that in some way.  Marcell Haskett is really playing a solid game right now on both ends of the floor as the sophomore is holding his own against the talented senior guards of Henrico, Tim Jones and Jordon Talley.

9:37 PM:  Coach Ivan Thomas of Kecoughtan has to like how his squad has responded from a quick six-point deficit, finding its footing and attacking the Henrico defense well off the dribble as super sub Lawrence Williams has provided instant offense once again for the Warriors from the Peninsula District.  Williams scores on consecutive baskets to tie the game at 12-apiece, and then it's Marcell Haskett dishing to an open senior forward Kaelin Poe (rumored to be headed to Catawba to play his College Hoops) for a two-handed flush.

That gives Kecoughtan a 14-12 lead with 2:30 to go in the opening period and Coach Vance Harmon of Henrico needs a time-out.  Both of these teams have the ability to score points in bunches and this could be a game played in the 80's before it's all said and done.

9:32 PM:  We are finally underway between the Eastern Region runner-up Kecoughtan Warriors (25-5) and the Central Region Champion Henrico Warriors (27-2) in a battle between the #2 ranked and #1 ranked teams in the last VirginiaPreps.com AAA Hoops State Top 25.  These two programs are squaring off in the AAA State Tournament quarterfinals with a Final Four appearance on Monday on the line.

Sophomore guard Marcell Haskett scores the first two for Kecoughtan, but back comes Henrico with three-pointers from senior forward Marvin Smith Jr. and senior guard Jordon Talley.  The Warriors lead it 8-2 until Kecoughtan gets baskets from Haskett and Providence signee Rajay Bullock.  Timmy Jones scores on two straight trips, the ladder coming on a great assist from Talley.

Henrico leads it 12-8 with 3:40 to go and the pace is fast and furious as expected.  The Warriors of Henrico (note, I have to identify which 'Warriors' because both have that nickname) have beaten Kecoughtan back in transition on a couple of occasions.  Stephen Booker is checking Bullock early on, while Talley is covering sharp shooter Greg Alexander (69 3's), an ECU signee for Kecoughtan.

9:16 PM:  Before we get to tip-off between Kecoughtan and Henrico, let's review the numbers from the Girls AAA Hoops State Tournament quarterfinal, featuring Lake Taylor and Highland Springs.  The Lady Titans moved on to Monday's State Final Four with the win.

Below are the numbers from STATVA (www.statva.com).

Final Stats:

Lake Taylor Lady Titans 68:  (26-1 Overall)
Feyonda Fitzgerald - - 36Pts. 9-25FG, 2-6 3's, 16-18FT, 4Reb. 4Ast. 3Stl.
Courtney White - - 11Pts. 4-10Fg, 3-7 3's, 3Reb. 4Ast.
Jordan Mitchell-Harmel - - 8Pts. 2-11FG, 3-4FT, 13Reb.
Kyara Cooper - - 8Pts. 2-6FG, 2-5 3's, 2-4FT, 4Reb.
Lady Titans - - 19-59FG, 8-20 3's, 22-28FT, 33Reb. 10Ast. 6TO's, 6Stl.

Highland Springs Lady Springers 55:  (27-2 Overall)
E'Shay Winfield - - 16Pts. 6-16FG, 4-6FT, 6Reb.
Najai Pollard - - 12Pts. 5-7FG, 2-5Ft, 7Reb. 2Blk.
Kermisha Clark - - 11Pts. 4-11FG, 3-4FT, 11Reb. 2Blk.
De'June Robinson - - 8Pts. 3-6FG (Fouled Out)

Postgame Audio with Lake Taylor's Feyonda Fitzgerald

8:51 PM:  Led by the trio of Feyonda Fitzgerald, Jordan Mitchell-Harmel and Endia McKinney, the Lake Taylor Lady Titans are now up double-figures, 55-43, on the Highland Springs Lady Springers.  Fitzgerald has scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, while McKinney has made timely plays around the basket, whether it's rebounding or defensively.  And who could forget the contributions Mitchell-Harmel has made by sacrificing her body for not one, but two charges on defense.

Highland Springs' offense has been pretty much bottled up in this fourth quarter, and another fine season for Franklin Harris' squad will come to a close at 27-2 overall from the looks of things.  He's building a program there and they will be a factor for years to come, so don't expect them to disappear on the state radar.  Brianna Justice just picked her fifth personal foul, so her night is done. 

Unfortunately for Highland Springs, they haven't been able to take advantage of getting in the penalty early and have struggled to keep Lake Taylor off the foul line.  It's the Lady Titans in the lead, 58-50 with 1:06 left.

8:42 PM:  To start the fourth quarter, Feyonda Fitzgerald is picking up right where she left off at the end of the third quarter.  She scores five straight points, including a three-point play the hard, old-fashioned way, to extend the Lady Titans' lead to 47-41 on a Highland Springs team that's trying to get back to the State Final Four for a second consecutive year.  Last season, the Lady Springers fell to Princess Anne in the State Semis.

Courtney White continues the hot shooting for Lake Taylor, this time hitting from inside the three-point arc.  E'Shay Winfield, who has been relatively quiet offensively, hits a jumper for Highland Springs to cut the deficit down to six at 49-43.

Jordan Mitchell-Harmel, one of the hard-nosed players for this Lake Taylor team, draws yet another charge, her second of the fourth quarter.  She's done that on countless occasions this season, and as Coach Saundra Sawyer often says, if Jordan's in a fight with a bear, help the bear.  In all honesty though, she has this drawing charges thing down to a science, perfecting it better than most male players. 

The Lady Titans are in firm control, leading 51-43 with 4:15 remaining.

8:34 PM:  A basket by Highland Springs' Najai Pollard cut the Lake Taylor lead to just two in the final moments of the fourth quarter.  Perhaps the biggest shot of the game to this point was then swished by Lake Taylor's Feyonda Fitzgerald as the Temple commit struck with six seconds to go in the third quarter to make it a five-point lead.

Lake Taylor in that third quarter hit four three-pointers, matching their total from the first half.  It's that kind of outside shooting with the three-point shot being the great equalizer that can be enough for the Lady Titans to move on to the State Final Four on Monday.

End 3rdQ - - Lake Taylor Girls 42, Highland Springs 37

Remember, after this one, it's the nightcap with Henrico Boys taking on Kecoughtan for the right to play in Monday's State Semis.

8:27 PM:  Highland Springs' Kermisha Clark nails a tough contested jumper falling down to cut the Lake Taylor lead to 35-32 with 3:32 to go.  Clark has been a vital part of their success not only this year, but last season when they made their first Group AAA State Tournament appearance.

Lake Taylor counters with their star, Feyonda Fitzgerald, on a stop-and-pop jumper with 2:04 to go.  That gives the Lady Titans a 37-33 lead.

Four fouls in a span of four minutes now has Highland Springs in the penalty, shooting one-and-one the rest of the way with 1:25 to play in the third quarter.  That's not good news for Lake Taylor, but the Lady Titans are able to get themselves to the foul line to maintain a four-point advantage, 39-35, with under a minute to go.

8:20 PM:  A great start to the second half for the Lake Taylor Lady Titans as they add to their three-point total with makes from long distance by Temple-bound guard Feyonda Fitzgerald and forward Jordan Mitchell-Harmel to grab a 31-27 lead on Highland Springs.

A tremendous pass by Brianna Justice of Highland Springs to a cutting Kermisha Clark cuts the gap to 31-29.  That was one of the best passes I've seen all day as it has some zing on it, but Lake Taylor isn't in awe because they answer with another, you guessed it, three-pointer.

Kyara Cooper's trey makes it 34-30 for Lake Taylor, and the Lady Titans are shooting a couple of free-throws with 3:34 to go in the third quarter to try to up their lead.

At some point, Highland Springs Lady Springers Head Coach Franklin Harris is going to have to come out of that 2-3 matchup zone.

8:10 PM:  Don't forget, coming up after this one it's the nightcap from VCU in the AAA State Tournament Quarterfinals as we move back to Boys Basketball action with a heavily anticipated matchup, featuring the Eastern Region runner-up Kecoughtan Warriors and the Central Region Champion Henrico Warriors.

Here are the numbers at the break with Highland Springs up by a whisker on Lake Taylor's Lady Titans.

Stats at the Half:

Highland Springs 26:
Najai Pollard - - 9Pts. 4-5FG, 6Reb.
De'June Robinson - - 8Pts. 3-6FG
Kemisha Clark - - 4Pts. 2-7FG, 8Reb.

Lady Springers - - 10-26FG, 1-5 3's, 5-7FT, 23Reb. 6Ast. 9TO's, 2Stl.

Lake Taylor 25:
Courtney White - - 9Pts. 3-6FG, 3-6 3's, 2Stl.
Feyonda Fitzgerald - - 8Pts. 3-13FG, 0-4 3's, 2-3FT, 4Reb. 3Ast.
Kyara Cooper - - 3Pts. 1-3FG, 2Reb.
Lady Titans - - 9-32FG, 4-14 3's, 3-5FT, 18Reb. 5Ast. 3TO's, 2Stl.

It was a scoreless second quarter for Fitzgerald, but White stepped forward and supplied the offense.  Highland Springs is winning the battle on the boards, although they have turned it over nine times and they want to be real careful not to let that number creep up to 20 or above.  For Lake Taylor to win, they'll have to do something about Clark on the boards and get her boxed out.  They shot only 5-of-18 from two-point distance and I figure that will improve in the second half.

8:04 PM:  Earlier, I noted that Lake Taylor yearned for a second scoring threat to step up alongside Feyonda Fitzgerald.  Well, they got it in the form of two deep three-pointers from Courtney White, cutting the Highland Springs lead to 24-22 in the closing moments of the second quarter.  Just what the doctor ordered for Lake Taylor. 

Sophomore Na'Jai Pollard shows off some great touch on an elbow area jumper to push the Highland Springs advantage back up to four.  Kyara Cooper then strikes from behind the arc and Highland Springs' lead is only one.  On the final possession of the half, the Lady Springers go to Pollard on the baseline and she's off the mark.

GIRLS AAA QUARTERS AT THE HALF - - HIGHLAND SPRINGS 26, LAKE TAYLOR 25

Lake Taylor closed that first half on a 9-2 spurt and the Lady Titans are back in the ballgame.  The three-point shot has been a real plus for them all postseason long and did wonders for them in that second quarter.  Some numbers to come in a few minutes.

7:58 PM:  Highland Springs is starting to get some quality looks in deep and they are building on their lead, now in front by two possessions on Lake Taylor's Lady Titans, who were undefeated on the year until Monday night's loss to Princess Anne in the Eastern Region Championship.  Feyonda Fitzgerald supplied eight of the 14 first quarter points for Lake Taylor and they need someone else to emerge as a complementary weapon to her.

A basket from the foul line area by junior E'Shay Whitfield, who recently pulled down 12 boards against Central Region contender Cosby, extends the Highland Springs lead to 24-16 at the midway point of the second quarter.

Lake Taylor can't get the outside shots to fall, and as a result, they are starting to play a little panicky defensively.  Coach Sawyer probably just wants to get to half-time down only a possession or two and then will make some tweaks in the game-plan in an effort to stage a rally.  A much-needed three-pointer is dropped in by Courtney White to cut the Highland Springs lead to 24-19.

7:51 PM:  Through one quarter of play in the Girls AAA Hoops State Tournament quarterfinals, Highland Springs has closed on a flurry to claim a 16-14 lead thanks to a De'June Robinson three-pointer and bucket in the paint from sophomore center Na'Jai Pollard, who was somewhat of an unsung hero in their semifinal victory over Cosby in the Central Region Tournament with nine points and eight boards.

End 1stQ - - Highland Springs Girls 16, Lake Taylor 14

Am interested to see what adjustments Coach Saundra Sawyer of Lake Taylor makes in this quarter, and even more particular, after half-time.

7:45 PM:  Kermisha Clark, a senior guard for Highland Springs, hits a jumper just inside the three-point arc to trim the Lake Taylor lead to 13-11 with 1:06 to go in the opening quarter.  The Lady Springers have missed a handful of shots right at or near the rim, plus defensively are leaving a few shooters open for Lake Taylor.  That being said, Coach Franklin Harris can't be too discouraged because his team is well within striking distance only down a deuce.

Feyonda Fitzgerald converts at the foul line for the second time in this game and it's the Lady Titans up 15-11 with under a minute tog o in the first quarter.  The good news for Lake Taylor is the Highland Springs guards have yet to find an answer for Fitzgerald defensively, which could mean another 20-plus point night for her.  A three-point pops in and out and back in for De'June Robinson of Highland Springs.

7:32 PM:  We are underway in the Girls AAA Hoops State Tournament between Central Region Champion Highland Springs and Eastern Region runner-up Lake Taylor.  Clearly, it's a home-court advantage playing on the VCU court for the Lady Springers of Highland Springs and they get on the board first with De'June Robinson's basket.

Lake Taylor answers back with a three-pointer from Courtney White, followed by a Jordan Mitchell-Harmel field goal.  All of the sudden, it's Lake Taylor leading 10-2 and Highland Springs is looking for some answers.

The Lady Springers are going to rely on their backcourt and speed with Robinson and junior Brianna Justice.  Meanwhile, Lake Taylor has a dynamite guard of their own in Eastern District Player of the Year Feyonda Fitzgerald (Temple) and a couple of experienced forwards that bring some good attributes to the table in Endia McKinney and Jordan Mitchell-Harmel.

7:15 PM:  We're about 15 minutes away from tip-off in the Girls AAA Hoops State Tournament quarterfinals between Lake Taylor (25-1) and Highland Springs (27-1).  I give Lake Taylor the slight edge, but this one is a tough one to call.  Regardless, I do like the winner's chances of getting to the State Final and probably against Princess Anne, who'll take on L.C. Bird tomorrow at the Norfolk Scope in the other quarterfinal pitting Eastern Region vs. Central Region.

Let's review the numbers from Wakefield's victory over Mountain View in the day's first AAA State Tournament quarterfinal at VCU's Siegel Center.

Final Stats:

Wakefield Warriors 83:  (25-5 Overall)
Ermias Nega - - 32Pts. 11-14FG, 9-12FT, 13Reb. 3Ast.
Dominique Tham - - 21Pts. 10-13FG, 6Reb. 2Blk.
Khory Moore - - 13Pts. 5-10FG, 2-2FT, 8Ast. 2Stl.
Re'Quan Hopson - - 9Pts. 2-3FG, 5-8FT, 3Reb.
Jalen Carver - - 7Pts. 2-4FG, 2-2FT, 5Ast. 4Stl.
Warriors - - 30-46FG, 3-10 3's, 20-30FT, 33Reb. 17Ast. 18TO's, 3Blk. 9Stl.

Mountain View Wildcats 76:  (26-3 Overall)
Ben Keller - - 20Pts. 9-15FG, 2-6FT, 6Reb.
Joe Wilson - - 18Pts. 6-11FG, 2-4 3's, 4-6FT, 2Stl.
Lucas Brown - - 17Pts. 8-12FG, 6Ast. 2Stl.
Tyrell Mason - - 9Pts. 3-6FG, 3-4FT, 6Reb. 4Stl.
Tyrus Mason - - 8Pts. 2-6FG, 2-3 3's
Wildcats - - 29-52FG, 5-12 3's, 13-22FT, 22Reb. 9Ast. 17TO's, 1Blk. 11Stl.

Postgame Audio with Wakefield Head Basketball Coach Tony Bentley

7:00 PM:  With 13 seconds to go, Mountain View continues to fire away from three-point land and Tyrus Mason dials up yet another to cut the Wakefield lead to 82-76.  I lost track of how much it was at one point, but I know it was around 20-something.  The Warriors haven't had an inspiring finish in this one, though fortunately their offense was sharp enough for three quarters to advance them on to the State Semis on Monday.

A sad ending to this one as a player from Mountain View and one from Wakefield, couldn't tell who on each side (and honestly don't want to know) were jawing at one another.

AAA BOYS STATE QUARTERS FINAL - - WAKEFIELD 83, MOUTAIN VEW 76

We'll have some Final Stats and Postgame Reaction in a little bit.  The Warriors are now 25-5 overall and will take on the winner of tomorrow night's quarterfinal at ODU between Great Bridge and John Marshall in Monday's State Semis here at VCU.  With their win, Wakefield snaps Mountain View's 24-game winning streak.

Don't go anywhere because we've got a Girls matchup next up in the quarters with Lake Taylor vs. Highland Springs.

6:55 PM:  Although their 24-game winning streak is going to come to an end and Mountain View's tremendous season will finish at 26-3 overall it appears, let's give the Wildcats some props for continuing to fight until the final horn.  They have now gotten the deficit down to single-digits, 79-70, with 35.1 seconds to go.

But Wakefield is hitting just enough free-throws, the latest two from junior guard Jalen Carver, as their offense has been pretty much unstoppable today.  Wakefield is on top 81-70 with under a minute to go and the boisterous fans that made the trip down from Arlington are giving their players and coaches a standing ovation, roaring approval.

By the way, I must say that people are camping out outside here in the land of Shaka Smart, the Head Basketball Coach of VCU, as they are waiting to get their tickets for the Rams' game with Butler on Saturday.  Word has it that ESPN College Gameday is going to be in the house, too.

6:49 PM:  Tired legs are starting to have their affect as a valiant comeback attempt by Mountain View will likely come up short here as their deficit that grew above 20, but Wakefield is still hanging in the lead, up 70-59 with two minutes to go after Joe Wilson's three-pointer for the Wildcats.

The trio of Ermias Nega, Khory Moore and Dominique Tham has been superb for Wakefield.  They've been very offensive-minded, aggressive, yet under control and in a rhythm all game long.

Let me give some kudos to Mountain View junior point guard Lucas Brown.  Although his numbers may not be the greatest here at night's end, he is one of the best passers I've seen all year.  He plays with a great basketball IQ.

6:41 PM:  No time-outs have to hurt Mountain View as they starting to inch back in this thing, but might not have enough time to stage an amazing rally.  Tyrus Mason, who was scoreless in the first half for Mountain View, drills a three-pointer to cut the Wakefield lead to 60-44 midway through the fourth quarter.

All Wakefield has to do is continue to ice the clock as much as they can before taking shots and they'll be in good shape.  

6:35 PM:  Wakefield continues to execute whatever they want and need offensively and continue to cruise, up double-figures.  The Warriors close the third period with a three-pointer from junior guard Jalen Carver.

End 3rdQ - - Wakefield 56, Mountain View 39

Through three quarters of action, Wakefield is still shooting right around the 60% mark and I'm not sure Mountain View can score enough if the Warriors get to the 70-point mark.

6:25 PM:  Wakefield Head Basketball Coach Tony Bentley has to love what he's seeing as even the Warriors' reserves are getting in on the act offensively.  Wakefield is now up 50-34 with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter and this game has become a rout. 

Barring a collapse of monumental proportions, and I don't think it's going to happen twice, Wakefield will be moving on to the State Final Four here at VCU on Monday against Great Bridge or John Marshall.

The Warriors have done a really good job of mixing up its defensive presses, going to a 2-2-1 look and 1-2-2 on a few possessions to speed up Mountain View and get them to play how they want.  By game's end, Mountain View's main starters are probably going to be sucking wind.

6:15 PM:  Coach Kevin Brown of Mountain View asks for a time-out less than two minutes into the third quarter as Wakefield has come out of the locker room strong, going to the post three consecutive possessions and seeing sophomore center Dominique Tham score on all there.

Brown has exhausted all of his time-outs with 4:08 to go in the third quarter and the deficit has swelled to 15.  Fatigue is starting to set in for Mountain View as well as junior point guard Luas Brown, the Northwest Region POY, looks visibly tired.

6:05 PM:  Some numbers at the break courtesy of Chris Jones and STATVA (www.statva.com) as the Wakefield Warriors look to make it to the State Final Four for the first time since 2005 when they saw their undefeated season come to an end in the State Semis vs. Landstown.

Stats at the Half:

Wakefield 35:
Ermias Nega - - 11Pts. 4-5FG, 2-2FT, 5Reb. 2Ast.
Khory Moore - - 9Pts. 4-7FG, 3Ast.
Dominique Tham - - 9Pts. 3-4FG, 3Reb.
Warriors - - 15-23FG, 2-7 3's, 3-3FT, 13Reb. 9Ast. 11TO's, 4Stl.

Mountain View 28:
Lucas Brown - - 10Pts. 5-7FG, 2Ast.
Joe Wilson - - 7Pts. 2-3FG, 2-2FT
Ben Keller - - 6Pts. 3-7FG, 3Reb.

Wildcats - - 11-20FG, 1-3 3's, 5-8FT, 7Reb. 2Ast. 10TO's, 7Stl.

The 2-10 assist-to-turnover ratio is very unlike Mountain View.  But the good news for the Wildcats is they are down only seven after being out-rebounded by six and allowing the Warriors to shoot a blistering 65.2% from the floor.  Wakefield has gotten 10 points off turnovers though as well as 15 more points off either fast-break buckets or second chance.

For Wakefield, they have to continue to ride their main trio of Moore, Tham and Nega to the finish line.  They also can't get complacent because they've had a big lead in their last game and it evaporated.  Shot selection will be important as will making sure they don't get too fast for their own guard where it leads to sloppy, out of control play.  Mountain View has to start making this a half-court some way and it may take them coming out of their 1-3-1 zone and using some selective traps.

6:00 PM:  Friendly reminder, be sure to Follow LIVE UPDATES on Twitter @ hatfieldsports as well this evening just in case the Internet starts to lag or I can't refresh the Blog fast enough.  We've got you covered in multiple places fans!

5:55 PM:  Wakefield senior guard Khory Moore is starting to heat up from the perimeter, which is nothing new considering just five days ago he nailed six three-pointers in the first half and finished with 37 points in his team's overtime loss to W.T. Woodson in the Northern Region Championship.  Also in a groove shooting the ball is senior teammate Ermias Nega, who scores a three-pointer and a fast-break bucket to push the Warriors' lead to 29-24.

Sandwiched in that sequence was a three-pointer from Mountain View senior Joe Wilson, but once again, the tempo is going to mighty fast, maybe too up-tempo for the Wildcats.  Coach Kevin Brown asks for his third time-out of the first half (keep in mind that Tony Bentley, Coach at Wakefield, has yet to call one).  Out of the time-out, Moore strikes from long range and gives Wakefield a 32-26 lead approaching two minutes left in the first half.

Wakefield has a chance to get this up to double-figures, but as they found out against Woodson, you can never have too big of a lead and think it's safe.  They have to keep their foot on Mountain View's throat in the second half.

5:50 PM:  Mountain View has done a nice job to re-gain their composure after letting Wakefield go on a 12-3 run in that fist quarter.  Lucas Brown gets a steal and a lay-up to cut the Warriors' lead to one, and after Dominique Tham can't finish inside off an offensive rebound, Mountain View takes the lead as senior Joe Wilson makes them pay at the other end.

Brown does have a couple of wild, semi out of control drives to the hoop and they need to make sure they play at the pace they want.  Coach Kevin Brown, Lucas' dad, will call a second time-out of this first half with the Wildcats trailing Wakefield 20-19 with 5:23 until intermission.

Out of the time-out, there's that guy again, Moore intercepting a pass and taking it in for a lay-up to push the Wakefield lead back up to three.

5:45 PM:  Wakefield is really getting some high-percentage looks against that Mountain View 1-3-1 zone defense in the painted area as sophomore 6-foot-4 center Dominique Thamb is making them pay as well as his front-court teammate, Ermias Nega.  The Warriors are starting to speed Mountain View up more than they want.

The Warriors lead it 18-13 after Tham's latest bucket; they're on a 12-3 spurt now that they've settled down.  However, Mountain View would close the quarter with junior guard Lucas Brown making a terrific drive, blowing by his defender and then having the presence of mind to find an open Ben Keller cutting to the hoop for the deuce.  Getting to see Brown for the first time live, he's pretty impressive and may have a shot to play low D-1 College Hoops after his senior season.

End 1stQ - - Wakefield 18, Mountain View 15

5:40 PM:  Well, Coach Kevin Brown isn't too pleased now as the Mountain View Wildcats give up a stick-back to Ermias Nega, and then star guard Khory Moore, the National District Player of the Year for Wakefield, gets a steal and lay-up to tie it up at 10-all. 

After leading by four, Mountain View is now down two after allowing the Warriors to go on a 6-0 run and Coach Brown calls a time-out.  Coach Kevin Bentley has to like how his team was able to press Mountain View into a turnover and that the score is starting to climb up.  If it gets above 60, that definitely favors the Northern Region runner-up Warriors.

5:35 PM:  Early on, Mountain View seems to be controlling the pace of things.  Both teams came out scoring well early with Northwest Region Player of the Year Lucas Brown scoring the first bucket for the Wildcats and forward Ermias Nega, an All-Northern Region First Team pick, knotting it up for Wakefield.

Re'Quan Hopson, the junior for Wakefield who hit the game-winner against Langley in the regional quarterfinals, gets in the scoring column early for the Warriors as well.

Lucas Brown, junior guard for the Wildcats and son of Head Coach Kevin Brown, responds with a nice driving lay-up, and then Tyrell Mason gets a steal that turns into a Ben Keller transition bucket.  Coach Brown has to like how his team is operating, ahead 10-6 with 4:07 to go in the first quarter.

5:30 PM:  Friendly reminder, be sure to Follow LIVE UPDATES on Twitter @ hatfieldsports as well this evening just in case the Internet starts to lag or I can't refresh the Blog fast enough.  We've got you covered in multiple places fans!

5:25 PM:  Hello everyone and welcome to another LIVE Blog here on VirginiaPreps.com as we bring you updates and analysis of tonight's Group AAA State Tournament quarterfinals from the Verizon Wireless Arena in Richmond at the Sigel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Here's the Schedule for this evening and below are my Picks along with some Cool Links to check out at your leisure.


AAA State Quarters Schedule for Thursday 2/28/13 at VCU:
5:30 PM (Boys) - - NW #1 Mountain View (26-2) vs. NR #2 Wakefield (24-5)
7:00 PM (Girls) - - CR #1 Highland Springs (27-1) vs. ER #2 Lake Taylor (25-1)
8:30 PM (Boys) - - CR #1 Henrico (27-2) vs. ER #2 Kecoughtan (25-5)

Hatfield's Picks:
Wakefield Boys by 3, Lake Taylor Girls by 5, Henrico Boys by 3

A blowout in any of these three games would quite honestly surprise me.


Cool Links:  *
Indicates Premium Content

AAA Quarterfinals Preview of Kecoughtan/Henrico *
AAA Quarterfinals Preview of Mountain View/Wakefield *
What We Learned - - Eastern Region Semis *
Monday's Eastern Region Championship Live Blog
Recap of Eastern Region Championship with Great Bridge/Kecoughtan *
Sunday's Eastern Region Semis Live Blog
Friday's Central Region Semis Live Blog
Thursday's Eastern Region Quarters Live Blog
Wednesday's Eastern Region Quarters Live Blog
What We Learned - - Day 1 at Scope *

 

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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