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January 29, 2014

Top-Ranked Hurricanes Roll

Final - - #1 Heritage 74, Denbigh 53:

A 10-day layoff in High School Basketball is not the norm, but that's what the Heritage Hurricanes and Denbigh Patriots experienced going into Monday night's Ironclad Conference tilt in Newport News. Heritage was able to shake off the rust best, breezing past their city rival 74-53 to improve to 13-3 overall, 5-0 in the conference.

Clearly, players and coaches on both sides were antsy to return to the action.

"We've been off for a while, so long, it was nice to get back on the court," admitted Heritage junior swingman Romello Anderson, who shared game-high scoring honors with Denbigh's Darius McKinnon with 18 points.

Winners of five straight now, Heritage was able to beat the same exact team that they started the streak against, except the Hurricanes didn't trail in this one like they did in the 58-52 victory back on January 10th. In that contest, the Canes never seized control until the fourth quarter.

Heritage jumped out to a 18-11 lead after one quarter of play and began by making 7-of-12 from the field. In each of the first three quarters, the Canes forced Denbigh into seven turnovers. However, they didn't capitalize on every mistake like Coach Mike Gardner would've liked, and things got a bit tight with the score at 27-22 just two minutes before the half.

"We got some turnovers and missed some lay-ups early. I was more focused on that because I knew we were going to be a little sluggish," stated Gardner.

His team showed no let up in the third quarter, outscoring Denbigh 27-14 in the stanza and did so by taking care of the ball, crashing the glass and performing with a high level of aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.

In addition, Heritage got to the foul line 16 times in the third quarter and played unselfishly, tallying five assists on eight field goals during that stretch.

"It's all about playing together. We can win Championships if we all play together," Anderson believes. "But if we're not playing together, the team can fall apart."

Denbigh, which dropped its fourth in a row to fall to 5-12 overall, 1-4 in the Ironclad, shot just 1-of-12 from three-point range. They're now 0-6 when allowing 70 points or more.

For Heritage, their next scheduled game is on Friday, January 31st at Phoebus. That is subject to change with the weather, which has played havoc with the conference schedule thanks to snow storms in back-to-back weeks. Or no thanks case if you ask Gardner.

"I hate that's going to happen," said Gardner when asked about the latest snow storm that was on the horizon. "We've had enough rest now we can go get it. But hey, I can't tell God what to do. If God wants it to happen, hey, I'm with him."

Player of the Game: Heritage SF Romello Anderson - - Gliding to the basket smoothly on the break and calmly finding his way to the hoop time after time, Anderson proved to be a problem for Denbigh's defense. He finished with 18 points on just 10 shot attempts, sank 6-of-7 free-throws and made an impact defensively with three steals.

"They're starting to feed me the ball. Whenever they need me to score, I just put the team on my back," remarked Anderson, who entered the game tied for fourth in the Peninsula District in scoring at 17.2 points per game.

"We knew since they don't have many big men, we had to attack the basket and get easy buckets."

Anderson isn't very demonstrative on the court. In fact, sometimes it's easy not to notice him as he tends to be that silent assassin whose slashing ability and athleticism in the open floor can help break open a tight game at any moment.

"He sort of lulls you to sleep. For me, I want him to be a little bit more intense. It's not his nature to a certain degree I guess, but he can do it and goes 100 miles an hour on offense," Gardner said.

"I want him to do it on the defensives side of the ball. He'll do it going through the passing lanes. But he's really good and a solid ball player. You don't even know it and he's got 18."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Transition Game: Dunks from Anderson and Troy Gibson, whose flush came on a beautiful assist from sophomore point guard Malik Marrow, sparked Heritage's run. Their third quarter burst was reminiscent to the one they had at Nansemond River when they score 16 unanswered to go from behind three to up 13.

Heritage scored 27 points in the third period alone. That's more than Denbigh had in the entire first half. Having all five guys able to run the floor and get to the cup with relative ease certainly made a difference for the Hurricanes in widening their lead from seven to as many as 22. Getting numbers, 2-on-1, 3-on-2 and not letting Denbigh set up defensively, enabled it to happen.

#2 - - Defense Forcing Turnovers:
On the night, Denbigh turned the all over 26 times and at least five in every period. As the game progressed, the ball-handling got sloppier for the Patriots, and Heritage pounced on its opportunities.

"In the first half, I think we really did not get after them defensively. We were in places, but we were not aggressive with it. In the second half, we picked it up a little bit and got some separation," Gardner noted.

Five different players recorded more than one steal for Heritage. Marrow, Anderson, Lorenzo Judkins and Marcus Van Hook notched three apiece. Corey White, the senior forward that scored 20 on Nansemond River the previous time out, had two steals. In total, Heritage finished with 16 steals, enough to see their point total increase little by little.

"When we force people to turn the ball over, that's when we're at our best," commented Anderson. "We still have to box out better and cut down the turnovers, but if we do that then we'll be good."

#3 - - Attacking the Paint:
While Heritage shot 3-of-8 from three-point range, a very steady night for them, they did a great job of not settling for low-percentage outside shots and took advantage of their inside play with White and Gibson as well as drivers that can create off the dribble.

"We talked about that before [the game]. You've got to play inside-out. Whether you like it or not, people have got to respect Troy and Corey inside. That allows Mike, Melo, Marcus and those guys to do things, and allows everything else to flow.

Also a factor was the fact that Denbigh's size is not profound, giving them one-on-one matchups in the low block that were favorable.

"We knew since they don't have many big men, we had to attack the basket and get easy buckets," Anderson added.

Postgame Audio with Heritage Coach Mike Gardner

Final Stats:

Heritage Hurricanes 74: (13-3; 5-0)
Romello Anderson - - 18Pts. 6-10FG, 6-7FT, 3Reb. 3Stl.
Michael Duncan - - 12Pts. 4-9FG, 1-3 3's, 3-5FT, 2Reb.
Troy Gibson - - 11Pts. 4-8FG, 3-6FT, 6Reb. 2Blk.
Corey White - - 8Pts. 3-4FG, 2-6FT, 7Reb. 2Stl.
Marcus Van Hook - - 7Pts. 3-8FG, 5Reb. 3Stl.
Devin Brailsford - - 7Pts. 1-1 3's, 4-4FT

Denbigh Patriots 53: (5-12; 1-4)
Darius McKinnon - - 18Pts. 7-11FG, 4-5FT, 7Reb. 2Stl.
Khalil Worrell - - 11Pts. 4-8FG, 3-4FT, 4Ast. 5Stl.
Derrick Jackson - - 7Pts. 2-9FG, 5Reb.
Dashawn Johnson - - 6Pts. 3-6FG, 5Reb.
Daquan Jones - - 6Pts. 3-3FG, 0-3FT, 5Reb.

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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