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January 25, 2014

Lions Roar Past FC, Move to 11-4

Final - - Tallwood 47, First Colonial 42:

Needing to win to stay a game behind 6A-South Conference 1 leader Landstown in the standings, the Tallwood Lions were able to protect home court Friday night in a matchup with the visiting First Colonial Patriots, prevailing 47-42.

Both teams came into the game having been away from the court for a while and it showed. It was exam week for schools in Virginia Beach, and compounding matters was the fact that snow hit the entire state, including the Tidewater area, hard to force school cancellation for multiple days.

"Not being able to practice all week long kind of left us a little sluggish. At the beginning, it was hard to get any type of rhythm offensively," admitted Tallwood Head Basketball Coach Tom Gunsalus, who's 129-64 in eight seasons at the helm. "First Colonial was in the same boat that we were. All Virginia Beach schools shut down, and the rule is no school, no practice. I'm sure they were just as flat as we were."

Though they trailed in the early moments and did not shoot particularly well for any stretch of the ballgame, the Lions were able to make the necessary winning plays and got crucial stops defensively that turned into baskets at the other end. Tallwood was down both in the first and second quarter, but once they gained the lead at half-time, they never relinquished it, even when First Colonial pulled within two with 1:10 remaining.

"No matter who we play, we can't take anybody lightly," stated Tallwood senior Will Howard. "We have to continue to work hard in practice, take it serious, practice how you play and give it our all. It's all about focus and having the right mindset."

Poor outside shooting couldn't derail Tallwood. The Lions overcame a 1-of-14 night from three-point land, thanks in large part to the play of Howard and senior guard Tyler Peterson. Averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 assists per game on the campaign, Peterson put up 17 points with nine coming in the third period.

First Colonial wasn't much better from deep, converting only 3-of-14 from beyond the arc. From the field, the Patriots shot 19.2% in the first half, yet only trailed by one at the half.

Junior 6-foot-3 guard Gerrard Simpkins of the Patriots didn't have his typical night offensively, scoring 12 points for the contest and half of them coming in the fourth period. Simpkins normally averages 16.3 ponts per game and was the focal point of Tallwood's defensive game-plan.

"Gerrard's definitely a tough player and I told him that after the game. He's the one that scores a majority of their points," Howard noted. "He has no reason to hang his head."

With the loss, First Colonial drops to 5-9 overall and 2-4 in conference play. Meanwhile, Tallwood moved to 11-4 overall and 5-1 in the conference. Their losses so far have been to Landstown, Green Run, Norfolk Collegiate and Woodside.

"The way I look at it, the only teams we've lost to are ranked teams in the state," remarked Gunsalus. "We've been able to win the games that we should win. Right now, we need to be able to get over that hump to beat the teams that what we want to be able to compete against to go to the regional tournament."

Player of the Game: Tallwood F Will Howard - -
Coming off the bench, the two-sport athlete that also excels in football served as a super sub for the Lions. And with Tallwood unable to find the touch from behind the perimeter, his minutes were crucial.

"He gave us good energy the first half and that really helped us," admitted Gunsalus.

Howard, one of the top wide receivers in Hampton Roads in 2013, posted a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Once inserted into the game, his presence on the glass gave First Colonial trouble immediately.

"I definitely wanted to use my athleticism to make a huge impact because that's what they look for me to do. I was playing both the '3' and the '4' and knew I had to crash the boards hard," commented Howard, now looked upon as one of the senior leaders alongside Peterson after being a role player the past couple years.

"We've got a lot of young guys, so we're trying to put them in a good position to be successful. We're trying to make plays, bring our other teammates in and keep winning games."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Second Chance Points: On the night, Tallwood registered 17 offensive rebounds. They had eight of them in the fourth quarter, preserving their lead that would grow to as many as six points. That ended up being almost as many rebounds as First Colonial finished with total on the night (20).

While Howard was the headliner in this effort, turning many of his offensive boards into stick-backs, it was a group effort. Six different individuals got an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter. That type of hustle was crucial in not giving FC any momentum to mount a late charge and possibly force overtime or steal the game in the closing seconds.

#2 - - Turn FC Over:
Besides offensive rebounds, one glaring statistics did the Patriots in and that was turnovers. The Patriots committed 17 of them, six in the fourth period. It meant they only got 37 shots off and had trouble establishing an offensive flow in the half-court during the second half when seeking any sort of spurt to give them confidence.

Tallwood made this possible by doing a couple of things. For one, they applied the press in the right spots to make First Colonial have to adjust or re-gain control after a couple of buckets by the Patriots. The Lions leaned on their guards - - Peterson, Will Barnard and Tyrell Myles - - to pose problems.

"When we put our defensive lineup in, we've got two or three good on-the-ball defenders that really can scramble and create a little bit of havoc out there," believes Gunsalus.

"We've got such a big lineup when we start we've been mixing in different types of zone. But when we want to put pressure, we've got to bring those guards in and create that havoc."

#3 - - Ice it at the FT Line:
In this day and age, free-throw shooting often plagues teams and making 70% or better is seldom seen at the High School level. Of their 20 attempts, Tallwood made 14 of them and went 6-for-8 in the fourth quarter.

Peterson, who earlier in the month made 14-of-16 from the foul line vs. Landstown, had another splendid night there. He made all eight of his attempts in this contest.

When Peterson gets to the charity stripe, it's usually a recipe for success.

"Sometimes he probably looks a little bit too much to get to the foul line rather than trying to finish at the rim, but he's had a great season for us," Gunsalus said of Peterson, who's being recruited by some Division II and Division III schools, most notably Virginia Wesleyan College. "We definitely wouldn't be 11-4 without him."

Postgame Audio with Tallwood Hoops Coach Tom Gunsalus

Final Stats:

Tallwood Lions 49: (11-4; 5-1)
Tyler Peterson - - 17Pts. 4-16FG, 8-8FT, 2Ast. 5Stl.
Will Howard - - 11Pts. 5-9FG, 14Reb. 3Stl.
Quincy Jones - - 8Pts. 3-6FG, 2-4FT, 4Reb.
Tyrell Myles - - 5Pts. 1-1FG, 3-4FT, 2Ast. 2Stl.

First Colonial Patriots 42: (5-9; 2-4)
Gerrard Simpkins - - 12Pts. 4-15FG, 4-7FT, 5Reb. 4Ast. 4Stl.
Shane Hohman - - 11Pts. 3-6FG, 4-4FT, 3Reb.
Marvin Trotman - - 9Pts. 4-8FG, 1-4 3's, 2Reb.
Brandon Schlick - - 7Pts. 3-6FG, 4Reb. 3Ast. 2Stl.

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 every Saturday from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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