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February 26, 2014

Chapter IV of Maury/Green Run Awaits

5A-South Regional Tournament Quarterfinals:
Final - - #1 Maury 69, #2 Warwick 55:
Final - - #2 Green Run 50, #1 Menchville 43:

Commodores Hold Off Warwick's Rally: It would be hard to replicate the first quarter that the Maury Commodores had in the opening round of the 5A-South Regional Tournament on Monday night at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach against the PenSouth Conference Tournament runner-up Warwick Raiders. They greeted their visitors from Newport News with a 25-8 first quarter burst on their way to a 69-55 victory.

Maury moves on to the regional semifinals on Friday and sits a win away from their eighth State Tournament appearance under longtime Head Coach Jack Baker.

Baker, who saw his Commodores move to 23-2 overall on the season, made a change to his starting unit following their 58-52 loss to Green Run in the Conference 9 Tournament Championship that ended a 14-game winning streak. He decided to insert 6-foot-6 senior forward/center Shyheim Draughan, nicknamed 'Six,' into the starting lineup.

"We changed the lineup a little bit and thought putting Six in would give us a little more energy and help us on the boards, and it did. It got us off to a good start. I thought we lost focus and played okay the rest of the way, but good enough to hold on," stated Baker, glad to see his team bounce back in a positive way.

"They're resilient kids. It was kind of like the same thing that happened after Cape Henry beat us. Our next game was Green Run, which was a heck of a lot more important than Cape Henry at that time. The other night, I thought we wanted to win and Green Run surely outplayed us. That's one game that really didn't mean anything, and we had a regional game on Tuesday that meant something to us."

Making sure Maury got off to the right start was their outstanding 6-foot-2 freshman point guard Matt Coleman, who scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter alone. He had a pair of three-point plays and the Commodores capitalized on eight turnovers by Warwick in the opening period.

Warwick, which closed out an improved season that featured their first regional trip since 2008 with a record of 13-12, showed lots of spunk in battling back. Trailing by as much as 21 points, the Raiders went on a 14-2 run in the third quarter, keyed by Glenn Travers' seven points in the stretch.

Travers was Warwick's leading scorer with 17, followed by junior Lewis Freeman's 12 points. Freeman also chipped in eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Playing an unorthodox style both offensively and defensively, Warwick had Maury befuddled for much of the third quarter. They weren't going to go away quietly it appeared.

"We only had one day to prepare for them, and that concerned me about us being prepared for everything they throw at you," Baker noted. "They run at least five or six different defenses at you. We had to be able to adjust, and fortunately when you have somebody like Matt it makes it a lot easier because he sees probably more things than I do on the sideline."

But with time ticking down in the third quarter, Maury re-gained control. Coleman delivered a slick trick when he inbounded the ball off a Warwick defender's back, and scored to stop the bleeding.

"He does it in practice every now and then, but I wasn't expecting it," admitted Baker. "I thought he'd try to throw a lob to Six or something. It really was a big play because they had some momentum going until that play."

In the fourth and final quarter, Maury got lifts from a number of different sources, most notably reserve junior guard David Reed and sophomore starting small forward Anthony Williams. Reed scored 10 points - - six in the fourth quarter - - on 5-of-7 shooting. Williams finished a whisker short of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds, plus made two key steals in the final period.

Green Run Eliminates Menchville: It has been a season of milestones for the Green Run Stallions. A week ago, the program secured its first 20-win season since 1996. By besting Maury in the Conference 9 Tournament Championship this past Saturday at the Norfolk Scope, the Stallions won their first postseason trophy of any kind since 2008.

With their 50-43 victory over PenSouth Conference Tournament Champion Menchville, Green Run was able to avenge a double-overtime regional playoff loss to the Monarchs from two ago and move to 22-4 overall. They also notched the program's first regional postseason win in ten years when they beat Lakeland before being ousted by eventual State Champion Woodside in the quarterfinals.

"It was a tough matchup because they have two ultra-quick guards, and that hurt us," admitted Menchville Head Basketball Coach Dennis Koutoufas, a man with 428 career wins that has taken Heritage and Denbigh to the State Playoffs four times.

Every time Menchville (18-7) tried to make a run, Green Run had an answer. The Stallions also buckled down defensively, limiting the Monarchs to 15-of-55 shooting, just 27.2%. That included 3-of-14 shooting from long distance with no makes in the second half. Outside of a 42-point effort in a win over Phoebus on December 10th, it was the Monarchs' lowest output of the season.

"We strive to play great defense and pride ourselves on that every time we go out there. We threw a couple wrinkles at them and executed the game-plan well," stated Green Run Head Basketball Coach Kenneth Harris, whose team is giving up the fewest points per game of anyone in the state at the 5A level. "It was a little scary because I was noticing that all our losses were with us scoring under 50 points. I'm sitting there saying that we're still close and defensively we're right there."

Green Run closed the first quarter on a 9-2 spurt, converting 6-of-10 from the field with no turnovers. They forced Menchville into five turnovers during the second quarter and got up by as much as 11 while only turning it over twice before the half. The Monarchs drew within eight on a three-pointer from junior swingman Richard Washington.

That would be the only three-pointer made on the night by Washington, who burned Hampton for 34 points the week before with seven treys. Tyler Blount led the Stallions with 15 points. Senior forward Jamaal Matin recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Another Green Run senior, Demitri Wilson, widened the lead to as many as 15 early n the fourth quarter on a three-pointer and dunk in transition, forcing Koutoufas to burn a time-out. On the inside, ECU football signee Shaun James made it hard for Menchville to score in the paint as post players DeQuon Lake and Elijah Murphy were a combined 4-of-17 with eight points, well below their norm.

"He was able to keep them out of the lane, and we were not physical," Koutoufas said of James. "They played great defense and the shots we took didn't go down. Normally, we shoot better than that."

Although Menchville got another splendid performance from guard Devin Hinson with 18 points, the Monarchs couldn't get any closer than seven points down in the fourth quarter.

"We're trying to finish games strong and one thing we tell them is to value the ball. We struggled a bit at the end, took a couple bad shots and have to do a better job of valuing possessions to keep moving forward," added Harris. "Hat's off to Menchville, though. They play hard and are extremely well-coached."

Next up for Green Run is a chance to make even more history. They face Maury for the fourth time this season, Friday night at Churchland High School in Portsmouth. Before last weekend's win over the Commodores, Green Run suffered two of their four regular season losses to them. The stakes this time are even greater than before as one team will be officially eliminated from postseason play, while the other moves on to the State Final Four, something Green Run hasn't experienced since 1984.

"It's a do-or-die game and they looked good," Harris remarked of his upcoming opponent. "That first half, they were all over the place, and again, Matt Coleman is an unbelievable player on a great team. We've got to be ready for a battle."

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 hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.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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