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March 10, 2014

Potomac Outlasts Maury in 5A Semis

VHSL Group 5A State Tournament Semifinals:
Final - - #2 Potomac 55, #1 Maury 52

Seldom do battles that are anticipated for four months live up to the hype, but the clash on Saturday night in Norfolk at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center between the Potomac Panthers and Maury Commodores did, and then some.

Ranked #1 in the state in 5A all season long, Potomac saw their 26-game winning streak snapped in the 5A-North Region Championship against Wakefield. To advance to the state title game, they had to beat a Maury team that has been ranked #2 in the state in 5A practically all season long and was coming off impressive wins over Green Run and Henrico on their way to claiming the 5A-South Region Championship.

Maury fought its way back from a 13-point deficit to pull within a point late against the Panthers, but Potomac showed its Championship mettle and experience to hold on late for a 55-52 victory in a game full of exciting plays at both ends.

"Having to take a three-hour ride, come down here in their backyard, I'm extremely proud of the way our kids fought tonight. You can't measure our kids' heart. The heart is what won that basketball game for us," declared Potomac Head Basketball Coach Keith Honore afterwards.

"These guys are just determined. They made up their mind that they're going to accomplish a goal. Whatever happens next week, I can tell you this: we're going to it 100%. When we show up to the Siegel Center Friday, I can bet that these guys are going to be ready to roll."

Two years ago in the Fourth Annual VirginiaPreps.com Classic at Virginia Wesleyan College, Maury beat Potomac 59-45. Potomac's seniors, then sophomores, remembered that loss. Combine that with the fact that they were coming off a loss to Wakefield a week earlier and another defeat would end their season, careers for many, and keep them from reaching their dream of winning a state title, the stakes couldn't be greater.

"We had a lot of motivation," admitted Potomac senior Randy Haynes, who finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. "Everybody was all tuned in, ready to play and we were still mad a little bit about when we lost to them our sophomore year."

Although the Panthers were outscored 34-22 in the paint and 18-14 in fast-break points, they got a balanced attack with six guys scoring at least four points. They shot 47.8% from the field in the first half and held Maury without a three-point make until the third quarter. Two of Maury's starters, including senior guard Mike Basnight, were scoreless in the first half.

But Basnight, along with fellow senior Jaleel Ferguson in the front-court and talented freshman point guard Matt Coleman, keyed the comeback. Ferguson was the game's leading scorer with 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting, stepping up in a major way in the absence of 6-foot-6 senior Shyheim Draughan, who sat out with a broken kneecap.

Coleman chipped in 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Basnight got hot from three-point land in the second half, sinking three shots behind the arc and scoring 13 points to go with eight assists. His last three brought Maury within one. However, a turnover with under 10 seconds to go by Maury and a desperation heave at the buzzer that was no good ended the Commodores' fine season at 25-2 overall.

A total of 21 turnovers by Maury did the Commodores in as did 4-of-12 shooting from the foul line. Potomac turned it over 20 times themselves, but shot better from the foul line, going 12-of-20, and got timely baskets to keep Maury from ever taking the lead in the game.

Now 27-1 overall, Potomac takes on reigning Group AAA State Champion Henrico in the 5A State Championship on Friday afternoon at VCU in Richmond. It's a re-match from a game that Potomac won in December in overtime, 70-64. Henrico got back to the title game by eliminating Wakefield, 63-55 in the other semifinal.

"I want so bad for them to taste success and want so bad for them to be able to set a goal and accomplish it because I think that will take us all a long way in life. That will be a valuable lesson in life if we go down Friday and accomplish something as big as winning a State Championship," commented Honore. "Setting that goal four months ago, for us to go down and do that, I think that would be a great life lesson for us all."

Player of the Game: Potomac SF/SG Tariq 'T.T.' Felder - -
Son of former Potomac standout Mookie Felder, Tariq came through time and time again with big plays for the Panthers. Felder tallied 15 points and nine rebounds along with two assists, two blocks and a pair of steals in the win. His eight points in the first half was a tone setter as well.

What was the difference in his eyes in Potomac's victory over Maury?

"Preparation in practice," Felder said. "We talked about being ready to play, no matter what. Don't quit. They weren't going to quit, so we weren't going to quit. As a team, we played together."

His versatility along the perimeter and clutch shot-making, converting both of his three-point field goal attempts, proved pivotal.

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Keep Coleman in Check: There has been an enormous amount of buzz regarding the fabulous freshman Coleman all season long and understandably so given that he already holds multiple ACC offers before even going to the tenth grade.

The defense of senior guards Xavier Laws and Torrey Dixon, a football player, limited Coleman from taking over the game in the closing minutes like he has done before this season. Dixon and Laws scored just four points apiece, but they were instrumental in turning Coleman over nine times, the most he's had all season.

"We all knew that Coleman was a great player and he was the key to their success. We put a stop to him. That pretty much put a stop to their whole offense," said Dixon.

"That last play, I just know him being a young guy, this stage under that kind of pressure, what is he going to do? We've got to put pressure on him and get turnovers."

#2 - - Embrace the Moment:
Coach Honore has been blunt that last year's Potomac disappointed in large part because of their immaturity and not seizing the moment in big game situations. This season's team has passed the tests with flying colors to this point, and got contributions from several different sources.

Haynes threw down an emphatic jam, Felder hit a three-pointer, George Mason signee Trey Porter in the middle came up with four blocks, and the guards Laws and Dixon gave great minutes defensively. Also not to be forgotten is Keijon Honore, the Coach's son, who sank three huge three-pointers to extend the lead each time.

"There were some pivotal plays in the game by several different players. Keijon and T.T. hit two big 3's down the stretch. Randy had a big and-1 play. Torrey and Xavier did what they did defensively against Coleman, making him turn the ball over nine times," Coach Honore went on to say in recalling them all.

"The best way I can sum that up is these guys aren't afraid of the moment. They're not afraid of big moments. They've proven that to me time and time again. When you've got guys that aren't, you can do some big things."

#3 - - Win with the Wings:
Potomac couldn't have asked for better two-way play from their wings in Haynes and Felder. Sure, they committed a total of nine turnovers and missed 11 shots, but their energy and play attacking the glass (Haynes with six offensive boards, Felder with eight defensive boards) while missing a total of three minutes between them was in many ways the difference in the ballgame.

Furthermore, Potomac was able to use their physical strength on the perimeter to bottle up Maury's wings, senior Keon Buchanan and sophomore Anthony Williams. Those two were a combined 2-for-9 from the field with four points and nine rebounds between them after playing so well in the 5A-South Region Championship win over Henrico. Williams fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

Postgame Presser with the Potomac Panthers

Final Stats:

Potomac Panthers 56: (27-1)
T.T. Felder - - 15Pts. 5-8FG, 3-6FT, 9Reb. 2Ast. 2Blk. 2Stl.
Randy Haynes - - 15Pts. 5-13FG, 5-7FT, 8Reb. 5Ast. 4Stl.
Keijon Honore - - 9Pts. 3-6FG, 3-6 3's, 2Reb.
Trey Porter - - 8Pts. 3-7FG, 2-4FT, 4Reb. 4Blk.
Xavier Laws - - 4Pts. 2-5FG, 2Reb. 4Ast.
Torrey Dixon - - 4Pts. 1-4FG, 2-2FT

Maury Commodores 52: (25-3)
Jaleel Ferguson - - 19Pts. 9-10FG, 1-3FT, 6Reb. 2Stl.
Mike Basnight - - 13Pts. (all 2nd Half), 5-12FG, 3-7 3's, 5Reb. 8Ast. 2Stl.
Matt Coleman - - 11Pts. 4-12FG, 3-6FT, 4Reb. 4Ast. 3Stl.
Daevon Young - - 5Pts. 2-5FG, 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 [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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