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February 18, 2014

Eagles & Lions Advance to Conf. 1 Final

6A-South Conference 1 Tournament Semifinals:
Final - - #1 Landstown 46, #5 Cox 34
Final - - #2 Tallwood 54, #6 First Colonial 45

The top-seeded Landstown Eagles shook off a sluggish start and got its act together in the second half to take care of business at home against the Cox Falcons, 46-34 in the semifinals of the Conference 1 Tournament on Monday night in Virginia Beach.

Pushing their win streak to 10 games, Lanstown moved to 19-4 overall. Early on, the Eagles fell behind 6-0 with 3:30 to go in the opening quarter and trailed 10-5 going into the second period. While Cox had some success with its 2-3 matchup zone on defense, the Falcons couldn't mustard up much at all offensively, turning the ball over 14 times in the first half, yet managed to go to intermission deadlocked at 17.

Landstown opened the second half on a 6-0 spurt with baskets from 6-foot-8 junior center Darius Bolstad, junior wing R.J. Nicholson and sophomore guard Tyriq Nady. They were able to widen their lead to as many as eight by the end of the third quarter on a three-pointer from Daryus Evans.

Bolstad, a Player of the Year candidate in 6A-South, finished up with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds despite being in foul trouble. Nicholson and Nady combined for 13 more. Cox, which closed out the season at 10-12 overall, got 12 points from Cole Johnson, including a pair of three-pointers. Wes Horbal added nine points on 7-of-9 shooting from the foul line.

Regardless of what happens in the Conference 1 Tournament Championship later this week, Landstown is set to open up 6A-South regional play against Kecoughtan, the #2 seed from the Monitor-Merrimac Conference. The two schools have never squared off before in the postseason.

In the Conference 1 Tournament Championship on Thursday night at the Norfolk Scope, the Eagles will take on #2 seed Tallwood, which rallied with a 12-2 run to close the game to eliminated upset-minded #6 seed First Colonial, 54-45.

It'll be the third crack at Landstown for Tallwood, which lost the previous two meetings in the regular season to their city rival by a total of eight points.

"It's going to be my first time ever playing at the Scope. I'm excited about it, but I wanted to get the W. That's all I care about," remarked Lions senior guard Tyler Peterson, who finished with 23 points, shot 13-of-16 from the foul line and collected 10 rebounds.

Peterson scored 14 of his team's 18 points in the first half, consistently scoring on pull-up jumpers inside the arc and finding his way into the teeth of the defense when needed. First Colonial was able to buckle down defensively and get back in the game after trailing 6-0 just five minutes in, plus got an offensive lift from senior reserve guard Wayne Gibbs.

Gibbs supplied 11 points and three treys off the bench for the Patriots, who used an 18-6 run to go into half-time tied. In the second half, the Patriots leaned on 6-foot-3 junior guard Gerrard Simpkins and he delivered with nine of his teams first 13 points in the third quarter, making an array of shots and playing arguably his best game of the season.

"We knew if we didn't stop Simpkins, we were going to be in trouble," admitted Tallwood Head Basketball Coach Tom Gunsalus. "He's just a catalyst for their team. If he penetrates and we're forced to help, then they've got those shooters sitting on the outside that can knock it down."

Simpkins finished with identical scoring and rebounding numbers as Peterson - - 23 points and 10 boards. His two free-throws with 4:23 to play gave FC a 42-40 lead in the fourth period. From there, First Colonial's offense was stymied with several role players, most notably Nicolas-Jakim Driver, Quincy Jones (4 blocks) and Clifton Spann (11 points, 7 boards), stepping forward.

"I was just looking to be aggressive and do whatever I could to help my team get the win," Peterson said. "The second half, it was all my teammates. They stepped it up and it was a team effort. We were in the bonus, so we knew we could get to the line as long we stayed calm and attacked the basket."

Spann's steal and basket with 1:30 to go gave the Lions a four-point advantage. They never looked back from there.

For Tallwood, win or lose against Landstown, they are locked in to playing Monitor-Merrimac #1 seed Woodside in the opening round of regional action. Woodside beat Tallwood 59-42 back in December and the Wolverines are currently ranked #1 in the state in Group 6A, having gone 19-1 over their past 20 games.

"It's a different level of intensity once you get to the playoffs. If you don't win a game, then your season is over with," noted Gunsalus.

Postgame Audio with Tallwood Coach Tom Gunsalus

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 at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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