Charles City provides surprise challenge for New Kent
In their first meeting, New Kent’s Trojans opened a 20-point first quarter lead and scored 100 points on Charles City’s Panthers in a game that left no doubt as to the outcome after the opening minutes. In last Saturday’s rematch at Charles City, the host Panthers came out determined to avoid a repeat. And they came armed with a pink and white basketball.
Charles City refused to allow New Kent, the state’s number one ranked Group AA basketball team, to pull away in the first half. But as the second half worn on, the Trojans’ experience and depth took its toll on the Panthers as the visitors managed an 86-69 non-district win to improve to 20-0.
“We tried to give them a little bit of a scare,” Panther coach Sharone Bailey said afterward.
“I think when we’re at home, we play better,” he said. “When we went over there, I think we were intimidated by that big gym and the large crowd.”
Saturday night, the Panthers were not in awe of the Trojans, taking the ball to the basket to build an early 7-2 lead and unleashing baseline-to-baseline pressure on defense, a vast departure from the zone defense employed in the first meeting. But New Kent regrouped, catching the hosts at 13-13 and then pouring in nine unanswered points to lead 22-13 heading into quarter two.
The Trojan advantage reached a dozen just past the quarter’s midpoint, but Wendell Jones’ basket at the end of fast break triggered an 8-0 run highlighted by a pair of Trevor Jones’ layups. When Jones sank both ends in a bonus free throw situation with two minutes left before halftime, the Panthers were within four at 35-31.
“I told my guys to attack the basket and try to get to the free throw line and get some of their guys in foul trouble,” Bailey said. “Our press was flying, but then our legs gave out.”
New Kent took a 44-35 lead to the locker room, thanks to balanced scoring from Neko Burson (10), Kaleb Lamb (9 on three treys), Adam Otey (8), and Justin Williams (7, all in the second quarter). The visitors surged in the third quarter, opening a 20-point spread on Williams’ steal and lay-in with three minutes to go.
The Trojans owned a 20-point advantage to start the final quarter, but Charles City had legs enough for one last run. The Panther closed the gap to 72-60 with just under five minutes to play, but could not get closer.
Now to the pink and white ball, used in honor of breast cancer awareness month. Panther players also sported pink socks and shoestrings. The night before, New Kent used its final regular season home game to observee the occasion as players wore pink t-shirts under their jerseys, but there was no pink and white ball.
“I’ve never seen a pink and white basketball. It was horrible,” Trojan coach Ed Allen said. “Our guys said it was slippery, and we didn’t get a chance to practice with it like they did.”
But the ball aside, Allen voiced displeasure with his team’s performance on the eve of this week’s Bay Rivers District tournament.
“We’ve got to get better, and we’ll work this week in the tournament on getting better,” he said. “We had no enthusiasm and no intensity and [Charles City] did. But it’s a win.”
New Kent placed five in double figures topped by Paul Kearney’s 16 points. Otey finished with 15 while Lamb totaled 14, Burson 12, and Williams 11. Everett Christian scored nine followed by Chuck Evans’ four, Josh Brown’s three, and Paul Robinson’s two.
Leading scorer Steven Allen did not dress for the game, electing to give his uniform to team manager Dominique Hilliard so Hilliard could start in the regular season finale.
Trevor Jones, who eclipsed the 1,000 career points barrier during the contest, led Charles City, now 5-14, with 15. Dominique Williams tossed in 13 and Roger Williams scored 12 followed by Jared Woodley’s eight, Kevin Wallace’s five, four apiece from Wendell Jones and Jaron Woodley, three each from Terrance Banks and Dominic Jones, and Gregory Cotman’s two.