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February 9, 2014
3rdQ Blast Propels Meadowbrook
Final - - Meadowbrook 61, #5 L.C. Bird 47:
A couple of 5A-South Conference 12 rivals squared off on Saturday afternoon at Meadowbrook High School when the Monarchs played host to the L.C. Bird Skyhawks, who began the season ranked #2 in the state in Group 5A and are only three seasons removed from winning a Central Region Championship.
Down 31-28 in the opening second of the third quarter, Meadowbrook scored the next 20 points and totally seized control by the throat en route to a 61-47 cruising. With their latest impressive win, Meadowbrook now is looking more and more like a factor in their second season under Head Coach Jake Oliver at 16-4 overall.
"Since day one, we've been preaching we're only going to be as good as our defense takes us. We've got the size, some athletes out there and this group has completely bought into what we want to do defensively. We know we're capable of having those nights like that, and it all clicked at the right time for us," remarked Oliver.
The third period saw Meadowbrook really put the clamps on Bird, and for the game, the Skyhawks shot just 16-of-51 from the field (31.3%) as well as 3-for-15 from long distance. Conversely, the Monarchs converted 6-of-18 three-point shots and had 14 assists on 23 field goals.
For Meadowbrook, 6-foot-2 junior wing and two-sport athlete Khylil James scored a game-high 19 points. That's a considerable uptick from the 8.5 points per game he was putting up on the season coming into the contest.
Meadowbrook 6-foot-1 senior guard Brandon Cheeks, their leading scorer and rebounder at 20.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, still managed to record a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, despite a subpar 3-for-12 shooting afternoon. Cheeks is the engine to their attack and the coaching staff has been pleased with how he's been able to contribute in a variety of areas and serve as a captain.
"Brandon is probably the most unselfish player that I've ever been around. He can demand the ball, take 30 shots a game and score 30 points a game if he wanted to," Oliver stated. "He's got that kind of ability and talent, but since day one he has always been talking about winning ballgames. There hasn't been any interest in stats or getting into a big school. He loves his guys, is the first guy to start cutting up with them, picking them up when they're down. For him, he's all about results and getting that W."
For L.C. Bird (14-4) in defeat, junior swingman and Division I prospect Kenny Williams scored 15 points, six coming in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much out of reach. Fellow junior and D-1 recruit Thomas Taylor added a double-double of 12 points and 13 boards for the Skyhawks.
These two teams are likely to meet again. Bird will be the site of the Conference 12 Tournament that gets underway on February 18th and concludes on the 21st, where potentially those two could square off in a re-match for the Championship.
Meadowbrook has already locked up the top seed for the tourney. Having already notched wins by double-digits over both Bird and Matoaca, their top two contenders in the conference, the Monarchs are optimistic about a deep postseason run.
"We've always believed that we can compete with anybody. We're now actually believing that we can win against anybody. That's been a big mind change for some of them," Oliver noted.
"The things that we talked about, commitments that we're asking our players to make, they're seeing the results of that. I really believe if I told them our best chance is to put four guys out there and play that they would honestly believe me and give me everything that they have with four guys out there."
Player of the Game: Meadowbrook SF Khylil James - - Using his athleticism to get to the bucket and also showing an improved jump shot, James had his best game of the season and did so against a quality opponent. He made 8-of-15 from the field and took advantage of the defense leaving him unguarded from three-point land, sinking 3-of-5 attempts behind the arc.
"I knew they would concentrate on Cheeks because he's been our leading scorer throughout the whole season. Once they did that, I just got my shot," commented on James. "I believed I could have a big game, but my confidence has also gone up as the season has progressed. This is a good feeling to beat one of our rivals."
In his team's first 17 games of the year, James made only three shots from three-point territory, the same number he made against the Skyhawks. Seven of his points came during that third quarter run, and he made his presence felt defensively by defending Williams much of the game, holding him to just two points in the opening stanza.
"I can't say enough about Khylil James. Coming into the season, we knew he was a lockdown defender. We knew he could do some things offensively. He's really put in the time and work to make himself a better player, and it's starting to show," said Oliver. "Now he's finishing around the basket. We've been looking for that second guy to step up and Khylil has taken that and ran with it."
Keys to Victory:
#1 - - Third Quarter Blast: Amazingly, Meadowbrook outscored Bird 20-1 in the third quarter to turn a 30-28 deficit at the break into a sizeable 48-31 lead heading to the fourth quarter. So how did they do it?
"All year long, we've been starting the second half looking to finish the games out. Coach talks about making the extra pass, getting the easy bucket instead of settling for the first open shot," James went on to say.
Meadowbrook got points from four different players on their first four field goals of the quarter and capitalized on the Skyhawks' mistakes. In the quarter, Bird shot 0-for-9 from the field and committed seven turnovers, perhaps marking their worst stretch of basketball this season to date. Meanwhile, the Monarchs valued their possessions and went 8-for-16 with only two turnovers.
Coleman was able to neutralize Bird's diminutive guards C.J. Miles and Malik Johnson, holding them to a combined nine points on 3-of-19 shooting. While he scored just five points, Coleman handed out six assists and somehow came up with five rebounds against larger guys in the painted area.
"He's a pit-bull and tough as nails. I think Daquan Coleman is the toughest player I've ever been around," believes Oliver. "Just like Brandon, he's all about winning. Daquan has no fear at all. He'll check the biggest guy out there if he's handling the ball, and not only thinks he can do it, but wants that challenge."
Whether it was Cheeks, James, Coleman or even someone off the bench, Meadowbrook was able to put the ball in different guys' hands to create a play, something that can really pay off come playoff time.
In the third quarter, Meadowbrook had the tempo in its favor and ball stayed away from Williams, who attempted only two shots the entire period.
"We just had to contain him and don't let him score because once he gets hot, the whole team gets hot," pointed out James. "If you shut him down, that shuts the rest of their team down."
More than anything else, the Monarchs wanted to make Williams work for his points, which he did in the fourth quarter when he took it upon himself to drive to the hoop on four or five occasions. By then though, the deficit swelled to as many as 18. They also kept him off the glass, limiting him to five rebounds.
"Kenny's a heck of a player. He's going to make tough shots and that was our focus," Oliver said. "He's going to get his points, do what Kenny does, but let's make it as difficult as we can do that. Luckily for us, it worked out our way."
Monarchs 61: (16-4 Overall)
Bird Skyhawks 47: (14-4 Overall)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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