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March 2, 2014
Commodores Punch Final Four Ticket
Regional Tournament Semifinals:
The Maury Commodores were in pain. They swept the Green Run Stallions during the regular season, including a dramatic comeback from 14 points down to earn an automatic berth to regionals and the top seed for the playoffs from its conference. But in the Conference 9 Tournament Championship a week ago at the Norfolk Scope, Green Run outplayed them in picking up the trophy, 58-52.
"Although I knew we were going to play them again, I was hurt. I knew they thought they had a leg up on us coming in because they beat us," said Maury freshman point guard Matt Coleman. "It was a wake-up call and different from the Cape Henry game because that one was around Christmas time and this one came against a team we knew we had to go through. We had to put the pedal to the metal and show them who's the boss."
This time with the stakes far greater in the 5A-South Regional Tournament semifinals at Portsmouth's Churchland High School on Friday night, Maury started much faster and stronger and never trailed after gaining the lead late in the first quarter en route to a 64-45 rout.
Their clear motivation was to get revenge for that defeat, avoid elimination and punch their ticket to the State Playoffs, which they did, earning a matchup versus reigning AAA State Champ Henrico in the 5A-South Regional Championship on Monday night at Churchland.
"We talked about that since last Saturday; that we thought they played harder than we did and wanted it more than we did on the boards. I thought we were determined tonight not to let that happen again," declared Maury Head Basketball Coach Jack Baker, the VHSL's active wins leader with 694.
Every time Green Run was on the verge of making a run, Maury knocked them backwards. Following a three-point make by the Stallions with 2:09 to play in the first half that trimmed the deficit to six, the Commodores closed the second quarter with a pair of baskets to increase the lead to 10. And in the third quarter after Green Run cut a 14-point deficit down to nine, Maury poked the ball away for a steal. They scored that possession and then entered the fourth quarter up 12 when Coleman found sophomore Anthony Williams for a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Coleman's distributing skills were on display as he finished up with seven assists. Nonetheless, it was his emphatic jam in the fourth quarter with 4:58 remaining that pushed the lead up to 19 and brought the crowd to its feet.
"I taught him how to dunk," joked Baker. "He's lucky he made it because if he had missed he would've been sitting next to me. You run out of words to describe the young man. The thing I liked best about him tonight was he ran the show for us and was in total control the entire game, and as a freshman you don't say that very often."
Even afterwards, the gym was still buzzing over his incredible slam that left a lasting impression on fans. In many ways, it was the defining moment on a night where the Commodores pushed their record to 24-2 overall and clinched a State Tournament spot for the eighth time under Baker.
"It was something I had in my package. I was saving it for tonight," stated Coleman, who already holds such in-state offers from UVA, ODU and Virginia Tech. "I picked the right time to bring it out."
Maury's 64 points were the most Green Run has allowed in a game this season. Previously, it was 57 to Norview in the Conference 9 Tournament semifinals.
For Green Run, their season concludes at 22-5 overall as the Stallions were denied of their first State Playoff berth in 30 years. They also saw their season long nine-game winning streak come to an end, nearly going undefeated the entire month of February.
In defeat for the Stallions, 6-foot-4 senior forward Jamaal Matin scored a game-high 22 points on 1-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds and three blocks, drawing praise from Baker afterwards.
"He's a good player. He's tough inside, can shoot the 3 and they all do," he said. "Anybody that gets this far is good; there are no bad teams left in this thing. Coach [Kenny] Harris does a great job with them and they play hard every game for 32 minutes. We had to meet that challenge tonight."
Dealing with a knee that was less than 100% the past few times, Basnight appeared to be limited, but this time much like the first regular season meeting between these two schools, his defense made the biggest impact. He helped slow down Conference 9 Player of the Year Tyler Blount, holding him to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"I thought Basnight did a great job on Blount," Baker stated. "He shadowed him the whole way. Overall, I thought our entire defense was exceptional."
A compelling case also could be made for junior sub David Reed. Nicknamed 'Duke,' the backup guard for the Commodores chipped in 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and gave them steady minutes to spell Coleman and Basnight in the backcourt as he has done all season long in solidifying their rotation.
#1 - - Set a Tone Early: It was about playing with more intensity; more fire and desire for the Commodores. They often lacked at times in the previous meeting with Green Run, and although the Stallions won the rebounding category 30-18, Maury competed better inside with Jaleel Ferguson scoring in the paint and Shyheim Draughan challenging shots around the cup.
As a result, Maury at times made Green Run go faster than they probably would've liked.
"We didn't press as much as we normally do, but we felt just in our half-court defense we could still speed them up, make them take quick shots and some bad shots," noted Baker. "And with that, rebound and run. It worked out well for us."
Down 10 less than two minutes into the second quarter, Green Run was unable to get comfortable and reacted much differently playing from behind than they did even or ahead like the case was at Scope.
"That means we were being patient on offense because usually we'll have about 15 turnovers since we're going up and down the court, not being patient. I think that says we know how to take care of the ball and know what to do to get the job done," said Coleman.
"I want to make everyone around me better. When that happens, it works out for us. When everybody's doing their part and playing hard, we're usually winning."
Baker chalks it up to a simple reason why they had such a low turnover number - - they have one of the best point guards around, even if he is a ninth grader.
"That goes back to Matt," he believes. "He handles the ball 80% of the time and he makes good decisions. He plays well beyond his years, I can tell you that."
"The last time they beat us, they were getting up and down the court, getting open shots and were able to get to the free-throw line," recalled Coleman. "We had to take pride in our defense to win the game and we got it done."
In the Conference 9 Tournament Championship, Green Run shot 15-of-19 at the charity stripe, attempting 10 more foul shots than Maury did. The Commodores ended up going 9-of-11 compared to 4-for-5 by the Stallions.
The way Maury defended quickly got Green Run out of a rhythm offensively.
"We felt like eventually Matin and Blount would go 1-on-1," commented Baker. "As long as we had help inside with our big guys Jaleel and Six (Draughan), we felt pretty good about our chances."
Run 45: (22-5)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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