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March 10, 2014

Norcom Handles GW 64-53

VHSL Group 4A State Tournament Semifinals:
Final - - #1 Norcom 64, #2 GW-Danville 53

For the third time in five years, the Norcom Greyhounds will be playing for a State Championship. On Saturday afternoon in Norfolk at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center, the Greyhounds broke open a close game at the half to win fairly comfortably, 64-53 over the GW-Danville Eagles in the Group 4A State Tournament Semifinals.

"It's a dream come true and I'm glad we're going," said Norcom senior Troy Locke, the 4A-South Region and Conference 17 Player of the Year. "Since I've been here at Norcom, I've wanted to get there and now I'm going with my brothers."

GW-Danville came out of the gate with a 4-0 lead on Norcom. Coach Leon Goolsby then decided to insert sophomore point guard Travis Fields, normally a starter, into the lineup. Fields had missed the previous 10 games with a hand injury. His energy led to a 12-2 spurt that allowed Norcom to take control towards the end of the first quarter.

"We settled down when Travis Fields came in off the bench. He was real anxious to play and he was a big sparkplug off the bench," Goolsby said. "GW made a great run in the second quarter, cut the lead to one, and then we came out the second half re-focused and picked up the defensive pressure. It was a battle, but our guys played just a little bit better."

In the third quarter, GW-Danville went ahead 33-32 on a tough up-and-under lay-up by 5-foot-10 junior Tamario Rodgers. However, Norcom would close the period on a 15-6 run, which was spearheaded once again by Fields as well as Locke and senior wing Antonio Parker. Norcom's transition game started to gain momentum in the second half, and the Eagles couldn't answer.

Locke had 19 to lead the way, while Parker added 18. Four players scored in double-figures for the Greyhounds as Fields joined them with 11 and freshman Travis Ingram chipped in 10. GW-Danville, which saw its season end at 24-5 overall, trailed by double-figures most of the fourth quarter. They were led by Rodgers' 14, followed by JaMarcus Hairston's double-double of 11 points and 10 boards.

Returning to the Championship game means plenty to the Portsmouth program that saw its top two scorers from a season ago graduate and move on to Division I College Basketball programs.

"It means a lot. I'm all about Championships. I'm not in it for me; I'm in for the guys," remarked Goolsby.

"A former player, P.J. Ratcliffe, came back to watch us practice and he said the difference between the last two teams we had and this year's team is they listen more, but we defend better. They were good teams with Malique Trent and James Whitaker, and even Malique said it. I'm a defensive guy and love stopping people. That takes the pressure off our offense."

With the win, the Greyhounds moved to 22-5 overall and have now won 10 in a row. On Thursday night at VCU in the 4A State Championship, Norcom will take on Handley (21-2), a 64-51 winner over Glen Allen in the other semifinal.

What will it take for the Greyhounds to prevail?

"We're going to have to play hard, play with a lot of heart and confidence, and play together," said Parker.

Player of the Game: Norcom PG Travis Fields - -
The return of Fields couldn't have come at a better time, and his impact was felt at both ends of the court, particularly on defense.

Fields finished up with 11 points - - more than the entire GW-Danville bench (which had 9 points) - - and added seven assists with only turnover and a career-high seven steals.

"It hurt really bad not being able to play, but I had to be a cheerleader for my teammates while I was out. I really just wanted to bring us a spark and hustle for my team," Fields said.

By getting Fields back, it solidifies an already talented Norcom backcourt that features the likes of double-digit scorers in Locke and Parker.

"He's what we've been missing," Goolsby noted. "He takes the pressure off of Troy and Tony to distribute it. Antonio doesn't have to play as much of the point anymore."

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Efficient Perimeter Play: Although the Greyhounds didn't shoot an extremely high percentage from three-pint land, going 2-for-13 as a team, their perimeter parts were efficient with a low number of turnovers. Neither Locke nor Parker turned it over, combining for 37 points and eight assists as they played 27 and 25 minutes, respectively.

"I thought that was the key to the game. We only had seven turnovers for the game, forced them into a couple mistakes, capitalized on it and I thought that we really could beat them down the floor in transition," stated Goolsby, now 167-48 in his eighth year at the helm at Norcom.

"We didn't turn the ball over late in the fourth quarter like we normally do. We took care of the ball, made our free-throws down the stretch, but we knew if we made them come out and defend us, we thought we would have an advantage with our guard play."

#2 - - Turn GW Over:
When GW-Danville has been most successful, they've been able to score in the 60's and even sometimes hit for 70 points. Norcom's defense didn't allow them to do that, disrupting their guard play and keeping them from scoring a lot of points in the painted area.

"They're able to cause so much havoc you can't run your offense against them," commented GW-Danville Head Basketball Coach Ron Parson. "They get you out of sync. We weren't totally focused on how to handle their press. We worked on it, but it's tough when you have our second team against their first team."

On the night, GW-Danville turned it over 16 times with 14 of those turnovers coming before the fourth quarter, putting them in an eight-point hole.

#3 - - Second Chance Points:
Another critical component to Norcom's success is getting second and third opportunities through hitting the backboards with a purpose. The Greyhounds came up with 16 offensive rebounds and were +5 in the rebounding category for the game.

"They were just more aggressive and beat us on the boards. We didn't rebound very well, and that sort of swung the momentum a little bit," admitted Parson. "We also missed a couple shots that were easy, and when you do that against good teams, it catches up with you."

Four players notched six rebounds or more for Norcom. Terrell Camp gave them a lift with a team-high eight boards in 21 minutes of action off the pine.

Postgame Audio with Norcom Coach Leon Goolsby

Final Stats: ***
Courtesy of STATVA (www.statva.com) ***

Norcom Greyhounds 64: (22-5)
Troy Locke - - 19Pts. 5-13FG, 8-12FT, 6Reb. 3Ast. 2Stl.
Antonio Parker - - 18Pts. 7-13FG, 4-7FT, 6Reb. 5Ast.
Travis Fields - - 11Pts. 4-13FG, 4Reb. 7Ast. 7Stl.
Travis Ingram - - 10Pts. 4-8FG, 2-8FT, 6Reb.

GW-Danville Eagles 53: (24-5)
Tamario Rodgers - - 14Pts. 5-11FG, 2-5 3's, 2-3FT, 3Reb. 2Ast.
JaMarcus Hairston - - 11Pts. 4-13FG, 2-2FT, 10Reb. 4Ast. 2Blk.
Kowante Cobbs - - 10Pts. 5-9FG, 3Reb. 4Ast.
Khajuan Watkins - - 7Pts. 2-6Fg, 3-5FT, 6Reb. 2Ast.

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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