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February 23, 2014

Green Run Tops Maury 58-52

5A-South Conference 9 Tournament Championship:
Final - - #2 Green Run 58, #1 Maury 52

For Green Run, the third time was a charm. The Stallions had lost two regular season meetings to Maury with the second proving to be one of their most heart-breaking losses of the season when they watched a 14-point lead on the road evaporate.

During most of Saturday afternoon's Conference 9 Tournament Championship at the Norfolk Scope, the two teams went back-and-forth until Green Run pulled away from the Commodores with a 9-0 fourth quarter run to go up 10 with 1:50 to play. This time, the Stallions held on, prevailing 58-52.

"We let one slip away the last time and knew we could do it, so we didn't want that to happen again. We wanted to come out and show that we could actually beat them," stated Green Run senior guard Tyler Blount. "With it being our first time playing out here at Scope, we didn't want to come out here and lose. A lot of people thought we weren't going to be used to it, but we handled it well after the first quarter."

Blount got the Stallions off on the right foot, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the first half. That included three makes from three-point range as Green Run went into half-time ahead, 22-21.

"Tyler's doing a great job stepping up and being a leader," pointed out Green Run Head Basketball Coach Kenneth Harris. "He has doubters out there about him, but he's proven and he does not want to go home. He's really taken these last games and given it all he's got."

Leading by just one with seven minutes to play when Maury freshman point guard Matt Coleman drove in for a basket, the Stallions were put in a familiar position that hasn't always ended in their favor. Two of Green Run's four losses on the season were by four points or less, including one to the Commodores.

"One of the criticisms of us has been that we can't close a game out. We wanted to get rid of that idea and show we can close a game out," remarked Green Run's Jamaal Matin. "Even with the lead, we wanted to stay aggressive, play with a 'don't back down from anybody,' attitude."

Rather than lose the lead, Green Run increased it, and held Maury to 0-for-5 shooting from deep in the fourth period. Perhaps most impressively, each time Coleman made a big shot, the Stallions responded and didn't let the Commodores go on a game-changing run.

"Matt Coleman is an unbelievable player and I was worried about him taking over the game in the second half," admitted Harris. "He's known for that and can take a team on his back. But we said from the beginning, we have to keep him under control."

While Coleman still managed to score a game-high 19 points, the Stallions didn't let him beat them from behind the three-point arc or at the foul line. From long distance, he went 1-for-6 and he made just two trips to the charity stripe, missing both. Coleman also had only two assists, well bow his norm.

With the victory, Green Run snapped Maury's 14-game winning streak, becoming the first team to beat them since Cape Henry did so on the very same floor back in late December in the Championship of the Scope Holiday Invitational Tournament. They also pushed their own winning streak to eight games, matching their longest of the season when they started 8-0 overall.

Next up for the Stallions will be a matchup on Tuesday night at Kellam High School with PenSouth Conference Tournament Champion Menchville, a 65-52 victor over Warwick on Saturday. Two years ago, Menchville eliminated Green Run in double-overtime in the opening round of the Eastern Region Tournament. Maury, which is now 22-2 overall, will play Warwick at Kellam on Tuesday to open up regional play

Player of the Game: Green Run SF Jamaal Matin - -
At half-time, the 6-foot-4 versatile senior wing who can be effective both near and away from the cup for the Stallions was quiet with just two points and four rebounds. By game's end, he made plenty of noise, finishing with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds.

"I took it upon myself to attack," Matin said. "Games like these are made for captains and seniors. I felt I needed to make it a priority to step up in the second half."

Performing under pressure separates players and Matin did that by going a perfect 5-for-5 at the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Balanced Attack: Even when Green Run was 8-0, some wondered just good they truly were given that much of their scoring production came from two individuals, Blount and Matin, so much so that the feeling from outsiders was that players 3 through 8 wouldn't be able to put up enough points for them to win if their two main weapons were contained.

"At the beginning of the year, a lot of people would say that, but they had to get confidence in themselves and confidence in their shots," Harris said. "They worked hard to get to this point. We told them if you've got an open shot, take it. They're growing."

In the second half, Green Run shot 11-of-24 from the field (45.8%) and it wasn't just Blount and Matin doing damage. Shooting guard Edward Gordon scored in double-figures with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Fellow senior Shaun James, an East Carolina football signee, played arguably his best game of the season with nine points and a season-high 13 rebounds.

Senior Demitri Wilson chipped in five points, and he along with sophomore Sterling Carrington combined for four blocks and three steals.

#2 - - Battle on the Boards:
In Maury's 41-39 win over Green Run in late January, senior power forward Shyheim Draughan was an animal with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Simply put, the Stallions couldn't let that happen again and expect to win.

"Everybody had to crash the boards," Blount said. And throughout the game, the Stallions executed that part of their game-plan near flawlessly.

In the first half, Maury didn't gain one single offensive rebounds. For the game, Green Run out-rebounded the Commodores 39-22, including 28-14 on the defensive glass.

"The key to the game was to control the glass," Matin added. "We had to do that and stop Matt to be able to win."

Together, James and Matin accounted for more rebounds than the entire Maury team. Green Run's last opponent, Norview in the conference tournament semifinals, got numerous offensive rebounds three days prior. That area was stressed by the Stallions' coaching staff in preparation for Saturday's tilt.

"Norview did help us with this. The way they were flying, we went over boxing out so long that they focused on it," Harris pointed out.

#3 - - Preserve the Lead at the FT Line:
Good teams can sometimes - - not always - - survive poor foul shooting. But it's hard to be a Championship team and leave a lot of points on the floor at the free-throw line. A large reason why Green Run was able to hoist the conference tourney trophy was their superb shooting at the charity stripe.

The Stallions went 15-of-19 (78.9%) from the foul line compared to only 3-for-9 (33.3%) by Maury. In the fourth period, the Stallions were 8-for-11 as a team there.

Postgame Audio with Green Run Coach Kenneth Harris

Final Stats:

Green Run Stallions 58: (21-4)
Jamaal Matin - - 15Pts. 5-11FG, 5-5FT, 12Reb. 2Ast. 2Stl.
Tyler Blount - - 15Pts. 4-10FG, 3-5 3's, 4-4FT, 3Reb. 3Ast.
Edward Gordon - - 10Pts. 4-5FG, 4Reb.
Shaun James - - 9Pts. 3-11FG, 3-4FT, 13Reb.
Demitri Wilson - - 5Pts. 2-6FG, 2Blk. 2Stl.

Maury Commodores 52: (22-2)
Matt Coleman - - 19Pts. 8-19FG, 1-6 3's, 2Ast.
Mike Basnight - - 10Pts. 4-10FG, 2-6 3's,
Shyheim Draughan - - 8Pts. 3-5FG, 7Reb.
5Blk. 2Stl.
Jaleel Ferguson - - 5Pts. 2-2FG, 1-2FT, 1Reb. 1Blk.

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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