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February 27, 2014

Landstown Wins at the Buzzer

6A-South Region Semifinals:
Final - - C1 #1 Landstown 53, C2 #1 Woodside 51

There are great games and then there are games that go down in the books as instant classics with memorable endings. The finish to the 6A-South Region Tournament semifinals between the Landstown Eagles and Woodside Wolverines in Newport News on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 won't soon be forgotten.

Trailing by nine with 2:50 remaining, Landstown staged a comeback for the ages that left the Wolverines sobbing uncontrollably and in disbelief, winning 53-51 on a buzzer-beater from 6-foot-8 junior center Darius Bolstad. A hoard of Landstown fans streamed onto the court in celebration as they punched their ticket to the State Tournament for the first time since 2005.

With 26 seconds to play, Landstown took the lead since the game's opening quarter when junior wing when R.J. Nicholson scored inside to make the score 51-49. On the very next trip down the floor, Woodside sophomore point guard Devante Carter drove the basket, hit a shot and was fouled. His free-throw was off the mark, leaving the score tied and giving Landstown a shot to win it to prevent overtime.

Senior Xavier Cooper, also a baseball a player, had to inbound the ball with 2.8 seconds remaining and the length of the court in front of him. His pass was nearly stolen by Wolverines senior Rashaan Johnson, and instead the ball bounced away and into the waiting arms of Bolstad, who delivered a game-winner that broke Woodside's hearts as well as their 13-game winning streak.

"At first, I thought he was going to catch it and then go down with it," Bolstad said in reference to Johnson on his steal attempt. "When it came off, I grabbed it so quick, I put a light touch on it, and when it went in, I'm still in shock. I wasn't nervous. I didn't want to rush it, but I had to rush it. That soft touch comes in handy."

Where does this one rank in terms of dramatic endings for Head Coach Dwight Robinson his tenure at Landstown?

"Number one in my coaching career," he answered. "We actually changed a little something on that play. The front part was the same, but we normally have Darius in the backcourt.

"I told him to go down to the rim. At least we can throw it up to him, try to catch it and do something. They tipped that thing and he happened to be in the right place because everybody ran to the ball. It worked out good for us."

For Woodside, they saw a lot go wrong in the final three minutes after building a 46-37 advantage. Sophomore forward Chris Orlina, who scored 13 points in the first half, fouled out with 34.2 seconds to play. The Wolverines had a discouraging night at the foul line, converting only 14-of-31 tries and 2-for-10 in the fourth quarter with several chances to close the game out.

It marked Woodside's first loss since January 4th when they were beaten at Nansemond River, 65-59. While the Wolverines - - ranked #1 in the state in the latest 6A Top Ten - - saw their outstanding that included regular season and tournament titles in the Monitor-Merrimac Conference come to an end at 22-4 overall, Landstown pushes on to the next round, also with a mark of 22-4 overall.

The Eagles overcame obstacles of their own. Landstown shot just 7-of-17 at the charity stripe themselves, giving them 28 missed free-throws over the past two games combined. They committed 18 turnovers and saw their leading scorer on the night, senior guard Brandon Pringle (14Pts.), foul out, yet persevered to move into the 6A-South Regional Championship against Colonial Forge (24-1), winners of 22 straight.

The win streak for Landstown is now at 13 games. Their last loss was to Battlefield on January 11th in the Sixth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Classic. Coincidentally, Battlefield is the last team to beat Colonial Forge back on December 19th.

"We're very excited because this is what we've been working towards since the summer time when we were playing at Virginia Wesleyan in those tournaments," Pringle commented. "We've been hoping we would get to play at VCU and have an opportunity to win a State Championship."


Player of the Game: Landstown G Brandon Pringle - - It's a dream come true for Landstown that they are heading on to the State Final Four, and it also was arguably the best game Pringle has played all season for the Eagles. Just two games ago versus Tallwood, he finished scoreless. In this contest, he made 4-of-5 from three-point land and had five rebounds as well as four assists, rising to the occasion time and time again.

Pringle made two of his three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help spark the rally.

"I knew this was one of our biggest games of the year and had to step up big for my team, especially when we were down. Some of these shots were the biggest I'll take in my life in my High School career," Pringle stated.

"We pretty much told ourselves we're not going to give up, no matter what happens. It's a great feeling that we pulled it through."


Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Apply Pressure: A staple of the Landstown program for years has been their ability to mix it up defensively with a variety of presses and traps, full-court, half-court or three-quarter court. When their season was on the brink, Robinson and company fell back on what they do best.

"I had told them we're going to unleash it at some time, and being down like that we felt like we needed to change some things," Robinson remarked. "We thought we could pressure them, but we didn't want to do it early. It came at the right time."

In the fourth quarter, Woodside turned it over five times, one right behind Landstown's basket on a steal by Cooper late in the contest. The Wolverines committed only seven turnovers in the three previous quarters combined.


#2 - - Deliver Three-Point Blows:
Only six days ago against Tallwood, the Eagles prevailed 45-40, despite going 0-for-6 from three-point range. They didn't need the three-point shot that night. Against Woodside, it paid major dividends for them.

They sank 8-of-11 from beyond the arc, including 3-for-5 in the fourth quarter. That easily passed for their best perimeter shooting performance of the year, coming two days after converting 58% of their shots in a win over Kecoughtan.

"We can shoot it, we just don't shoot it a lot," Robinson noted. "There's a reason why I had Daryus Evans in the game because he's our best shooter. The moment he got it in that corner I was saying 'Shoot it, shoot it, shoot it, shoot it.' Once he gets his feet set, it's pretty good."

Evans' three-pointer with 38.7 seconds left cut the deficit from four to one. Pringle's 3's pulled Landstown within four and three points with under two minutes to go when Woodside's fans were gearing up to celebrate a victory.

"Pringle came up huge for us with those 3's for us," Robinson added. "I told him before the game, 'Man, can you please show up tonight? You've been bad for the last couple games and we really need something out of you.' He really did and then he fouled out and felt bad when he did. I said, 'Hey man, it is what is. We're going to keep playing.'


#3 - - Control Orlina:
In the first half, the 6-foot-5 Orlina proved to be a matchup problem like he has been for most every team they've faced this season. He can score inside or out, and attacks the glass effectively. Bolstad finished up with eight points on only six shot attempts, a big difference from his dominating 29-point, 15-rebound effort in the victory over Kecoughtan two days prior.

Part of why Bolstad didn't put up similar numbers was he got called for his fourth foul with 6:08 left in the third quarter, sending him to the bench. Woodside didn't take advantage though, and Orlina didn't make a single shot the entire second half.

Even with Bolstad forced to the bench, the Eagles managed to keep Orlina from dominating around the cup. Credit thei supporting cast and subs like Owen Obasuyi, a football player headed to Hampton University.

"You've got to remember, we played the Tallwood game 12 minutes without [Bolstad] and we were holding on," Robinson noted. "Owen played really well in his place, missed a couple lay-ups there, but rebounded the ball well and helped us out for that 5-6 minute stretch. Tonight, we had our additional scorer Pringle come through with some buckets for us that were huge."


Postgame Audio with Landstown Coach Dwight Robinson


Stats:

Landstown Eagles 53: (22-4)
Brandon Pringle - - 14Pts. 5-10FG, 4-5 3's, 5Reb. 4Ast.
Xavier Cooper - - 10Pts. 2-4FG, 5-7FT, 4Ast. 2Stl.
R.J. Nicholson - - 9Pts. 4-10FG, 2Reb.
Darius Bolstad - - 8Pts. 4-6FG, 9Reb.
Tyriq Nady - - 6Pts. 2-4FG, 2Reb.

Woodside Wolverines 51: (22-4)
Devante Carter - - 16Pts. 7-15FG, 2-6FT, 4Reb. 3Ast. 4Stl.
Chris Orlina - - 14Pts. (13Pts. 1st Half), 4-8FG, 6-11FT, 10Reb.
Rashaan Johnson - - 8Pts. 2-3FG, 4-9FT, 4Reb. 2Blk. 2Stl.
Ray Jackson - - 6Pts. 3-6FG, 2Reb.

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


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