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February 25, 2014

Bolstad's Eagles Outlast Haskett's Warriors

6A-South Region Quarterfinals:
Final - - #1 Landstown 71, #2 Kecoughtan 66

In the first ever regional playoff meeting between the Landstown Eagles and Kecoughtan Warriors, two junior starts put on fantastic displays in trying to keep their team's season alive. Playing at home, Landstown was able to extend its winning streak to 12 games behind a sterling effort from center Darius Bolstad to outlast visiting Kecoughtan and the hot shooting of point guard Marcell Haskett, 71-66 in Monday night's opening round action.

"We preserved. My guys kept grinding, we got some big stops and we got in transition a little bit on them and built that lead up to 10. Despite our poor performance at the free-throw line, we were able to hold on," remarked Landstown Head Basketball Coach Dwight Robinson, whose Eagles are now 21-4 overall on the campaign.

Ladnstown overcame 15-of-33 shooting from the foul line in large part because Kecoughtan wasn't any better from the charity stripe. The Warriors went 4-of-15 there. Where the Eagles held decisive advantages were on the backboards and shooting inside the three-point arc.

The 6-foot-8 Bolstad dominated inside with a career-high 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting, 15 rebounds and four blocks to set a tone from the start for the host Eagles. Kecoughtan was able to answer back behind Haskett, who also finished up with a career-high in points with 41. They used a 9-0 run to go up 21-18 to start the second quarter.

Haskett didn't slow down, shooting 17-of-28 from the floor, 5-for-9 from three-point range and also handed out three assists. Even though he went to the foul line only twice, Haskett even gave one of the best defensive teams in the area in Landstown, giving up just under 45 points per game as a team, issues all night long while making difficult shots.

"Marcell had an outstanding game and he just didn't miss," Robinson added. "Guys were in his face and he wasn't missing, was able to drive to the hole with Darius in his face and didn't miss."

Fortunately for Landstown, the Eagles were able to get on a couple spurts of their own, taking a 36-34 lead into half-time and scoring 11 in a row in the third quarter to break a 45-all tie. While Bolstad was unstoppable on the inside, he got great support from junior wing R.J. Nicholson (17 points) and they played unselfishly with 18 assists from their starting five.

On the night, Landstown out-rebounded Kecoughtan 42-24, coming up with 13 offensive rebounds that often times led to second chance points. From the field, the Eagles were 27-of-47 (57.4%) in what amounted to one their finer offensive outputs of the season. Meanwhile, Kecoughtan went 27-for-61 (44.3%).

Kecoughtan, the Monitor-Merrimac Conference Tournament runner-up, closes out its season at 17-8 overall. Ivan Thomas' Warriors had made back-to-back appearances in the State Tournament prior to this season.

As for Landstown, they go up against a Woodside team that is 22-3 overall. Winners of 21 of their past 22 games, the Wolverines play host to Landstown on Wednesday night in Newport News with a berth to the regional final and State Playoffs on the line.

What will it take for the Eagles to knock off the top-ranked team in the state currently in 6A?

"A great performance," Robinson answered. "Those guys have got a lot of weapons, a lot of energy and multiple guys that can put it in the cup. They don't have a guy that comes off their bench that can't score for them. And they play hard. I saw them play against Kecoughtan when they came from behind. They don't mind playing from behind either. We're just going to have to play great to beat them."

Bolstad and company are looking forward to the challenge.

"Defense is going to be the big key," he said. "We have to be able rebound, keep the other team off the boards, push the ball up the court and execute plays really well."

Player of the Game: Landstown C Darius Bolstad - - It was in the second and third quarters when Bolstad made his presence felt most as the Eagles outscored Kecoughtan 38-26. Bolstad accounted for exactly half of those points, and even though he would be whistled for his third foul with 3:10 left in the third period, he didn't let that discourage him.

"I knew I had to be extra careful staying out of foul trouble. At some point, I knew my team was going to need more and I couldn't have any extra fouls. That's why I try to keep my hands straight a guard comes in the lane and tries to draw the foul," Bolstad commented afterwards.

As an assistant coach from ODU watched on from the stands, Bolstad served notice of his Division I potential with excellent hands, better than average footwork around the rim and covered ground to reject a couple of shots around the three-point line in the early going.

"It got me hyped and more into the game," Bolstad said of his blocks in the opening quarter. "As I'm blocking shots, it made me effective defensively. That transfers over to my offensive game, too."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Contain Tabb: Both Haskett and senior wing Brandon Tabb came into Monday's tilt averaging just over 20 points per game on the season. Haskett more than doubled that total, but Tabb was unable come anywhere close to his average, finishing with a season-low three on 1-of-15 shooting, including 1-for-10 from three-point range.

Earlier in the season against St. John's out of D.C., Tabb kept Kecoughtan in the game by sinking four three-pointers in the corner alone. In this game, Tabb didn't score his first basket until 1:17 remaining after misfiring on his first 12 shots.

"We talked about [with] Tabb you can't give him any space. We almost overplayed him and it was to the point when he caught it we didn't want him to have any space. We wanted him to put it on the deck."

Robinson noted that their defensive concern was more with Tabb than Haskett, given one simple reason.

"A point guard has the ball in his hands, so he's going to have more opportunities," Robinson said. "But we felt if we were able to limit Tabb's opportunities, we felt pretty good about getting the win. We were able to keep him from getting clean shots, blocking his shot and things like that to get him out of rhythm."

#2 - - Transition Points:
Although Landstown turned the ball over six times in the first 3:05 of the fourth quarter, the Eagles settled down and had just one turnover over the final four minutes of play in breaking Kecoughtan's press. Perhaps more importantly, Ladnstown was able to increase its advantage in an up-tempo battle in the third quarter.

Credit Nicholson as well as senior wing Xavier Cooper and sophomore guard Tyriq Nady. Cooper and Nady combined for 15 assists while going 4-of-7 on their shot attempts.

"We practice against ourselves a lot, so we have experience of breaking the pressure," Robinson pointed out. "Xavier made some really great decisions in breaking that press. He went straight to the bucket or he fed Darius or R.J."

#3 - - Establish the Big Fella:
There's no secret that Landstown's bread and butter offensively is throw it to the big man and let him go to work. Often times, Robinson has been disappointed when Bolstad's shot attempts are down. That's because he is so efficient.

His 20 field goal tries and 13 makes were both season-highs, and the driving reason why Landstown shot nearly 60% on the night.

"I consider this my best game," said Bolstad, acknowledging the stakes of win-or-go-home. "My teammates knew what they had to do, were looking for me more and it would make it easier for us to win by passing me the ball."

Postgame Audio with Landstown Coach Dwight Robinson

Final Stats:

Landstown Eagles 71: (21-4)
Darius Bolstad - - 29Pts. 13-20FG, 3-7FT, 15Reb. 4Blk.
R.J. Nicholson - - 17Pts. 6-10FG, 4-5FT, 4Reb.
Tyriq Nady - - 10Pts. 3-5FG, 4-15FT, 8Reb. 8Ast. 4Stl.
Brandon Pringle - - 8Pts. 2-8FG, 4-6FT, 4Reb. 2Ast.

Kecoughtan Warriors 66: (17-8)
Marcell Haskett - - 41Pts. 17-28FG, 5-9 3's, 2-2FT, 3Ast. 3Stl.
Will Askew - - 13Pts. 5-9FG, 2-3 3's, 1-5FT, 4Ast. 2Stl.
Nick Carrera - - 5Pts. 2-5FG, 1-4FT, 7Reb. 3Ast. 3Stl.
Brandon Tabb - - 3Pts. 1-15FG, 1-10 3's, 6Reb. 3Stl.

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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