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February 20, 2014
Maury & Green Run Advance
Conference 9 Tournament Semifinals:
Commodores Cruise Behind Coleman: Those that have followed the High School Basketball scene in Virginia, and particularly Hampton Roads, know that the player being touted as the next 'phenom' is Maury freshman point guard Matt Coleman. With offers already in from such schools as ODU, UVA and Virginia Tech, he has quickly jumped onto the recruiting radar screen and figures to be a nationally-rated prospects before graduating.
Coleman displayed his skills in a dizzying opening quarter burst, scoring 14 points and sinking four three-pointers to help the Commodores bolt to a 26-16 lead through eight minutes of play on their way to a 71-53 rout of the fourth-seeded Kellam Knights in Wednesday night's Conference 9 Tournament semifinals.
Even a popped blood vessel, which occurred when he got poked in the eye vs. Norview late in the regular season, couldn't slow him down from or hinder his uncanny court vision.
"I got in a rhythm and just kept on shooting until I missed. All week in practice, I was feeling it and wanted to come out and show what I was doing in practice," Coleman said.
"At the beginning of the season, I was laidback and new to the varsity level. Now, I know I can play with these guys, play at a high level, make plays and not just fit in, but look above average."
Earlier this month, Coleman was named the Cox Sports Player of the Week in Hampton Roads for his play in a trio of wins over First Colonial (20Pts. 10Ast. 7Stl.), Salem (18Pts. 8Reb. 8Ast.) and Norview (16Pts. 10Ast.), where he approached triple-double numbers each time out.
On 8-of-13 shooting from the field, 4-for-5 from long distance, Coleman finished with a season-high 25 points against the Knights while also dishing out six assists and making three steals. All five of his free-throws were converted as well.
"It might've been the best game he's had all year. He shot the ball extremely well obviously, but the thing that most people don't notice is the defensive pressure, the steals. He's one of a kind," stated longtime Maury Head Basketball Coach Jack Baker, who notched career win #692.
"Since January when we came back from Christmas, he's been as good as you can ask for. He's stepped up his game and is so much better than he was in December. He's managing the game, becoming more of a leader on the floor. Right now he's in a zone and playing very, very well."
Baker expressed concern about this matchup against Kellam for a few reasons, most notably the fact that they escaped with a 62-56 win on the road over the Knights back on February 1st in what was one of their closest games of the season.
"I thought it was vital for us to play well early because they gave us all we could handle last time at Kellam, and I'm sure they came in pretty confident they can beat us," he noted.
Although Maury trailed 7-4 less than four minutes in, the Commodores turned up their defensive intensity a notch, forcing Kellam into 23 turnovers with 14 coming before half-time. Maury's lead swelled to as many as 20 points midway through the third quarter.
Complementing Coleman's great play were Jaleel Ferguson, Anthony Williams and David Reed. Ferguson tallied 13 points and nine rebounds. Williams, a sophomore, finished up with 11 points and four steals. Reed chipped in nine points as the Commodores - ranked second in the state in 5A - moved to 22-1 overall.
For Kellam, which closed out the season at 14-9 overall, they were led by junior point guard Janai Raynor-Powell's 14 points. Evan Burton and Will Shook had nine apiece for a Knights team that shot 7-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Green Run has senior guard Tyler Blount to thank. In the fourth quarter, Green Run saw its lead evaporate and suddenly trailed by three with 2:45 to play when Norview 6-foot-3 junior forward Daevon Brown brought the crowd to its feet with a monster dunk off of a steal.
Out of a time-out, 6-foot-4 wing Jamaal Matin brought the Stallions within one, and then Green Run drew a charging foul, setting up a giant three-pointer by Blount with 1:21 to go that gave them the lead that they wouldn't relinquish from there.
"After the dunk, they had the momentum. I knew we had to settle it down somehow. I told my teammates to just be patient. They were going to make a run, fight back and when they made that run all we had to do was answer them," commented Blount, who in the fourth quarter alone scored 13 points and made 7-of-8 free-throws, all coming down the stretch with the game on the line.
"I didn't want to go home. I had to make them. We didn't want our season to end. We had failed all three games right before the Scope until this year, losing in double-overtime two years ago and last year losing by three to King's Fork. I'm very excited and can't wait."
Through the game's first 12 minutes, Green Run shot 60% from the floor and didn't commit a single turnover. They led, 25-12 at that point. Little by little, Norview chipped away at that lead.
The Pilots, who ended the season at 15-8 overall, trailed by nine at the half. At the end of the third quarter, Green Run's advantage was only five, 42-37. In the final eight minutes, the pace was often frenetic and the noise deafening as Norview started to get shots to fall.
"He (Coach Jonathan Wilson) waited until the fourth quarter to press us, and we were expecting the press from the beginning from the last game. I think that bothered us, but we weathered the storm as the game went on," commented Green Run Head Basketball Coach Kenneth Harris, whose message was simple once his team lost the lead.
"We've been here before. The kids were ready, all in, listening and didn't get rattled at all."
That's when Green Run's seniors, highlighted by Blount and Matin, took charge.
Blount finished up with 29 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field and made 10-of-12 at the charity stripe. His three-pointer in the corner late proved to be a season-saver for the Stallions.
"He stepped up. I think he finally got over that hump as far as hitting that big shot," Harris said of Blount. "Every time he was at the free-throw line, he was saying he's not going home. That's my leader, one of my go-to guys and coaching him for four years has been unbelievable."
Matin, who collected 18 rebounds in the previous regular season meeting between these two teams, recorded another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Sterling Carrington added eight points, six rebounds and four assists. ECU football signee Shaun James grabbed seven boards.
Brown's ability to hit the offensive boards helped keep Norview in the game. He finished up with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds. Sophomore Jaylen Frazier contributed 13 points and junior guard Damion Madison put up 10 points.
Now 20-4 overall, Green Run achieved a milestone in the victory. It marked their first 20-win season since 1996 when current Stallions assistant coach Rod Cooper was their starting point guard.
While the Stallions are set to play the winner of the PenSouth Conference 10 Tournament Championship between Warwick and Menchville next Tuesday at Kellam High School in regional play, they will first try to capture a conference tournament crown. To do so, they'll have to beat a Maury team that won both regular season meetings, including rallying from 14 down to defeat them 41-39 back on January 25th.
"Jack Baker [is] one of the best coaches in Virginia. You have to come with your A-game. They're a very good team and have only lost one game to a private school team. You've got to be ready to play," Harris stated.
"They're going to be ready to play. They've been to the Scope and know what it's like. We just have to step up to the plate, and when they throw punches, we have to be able to throw them back."
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@example.com, 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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