of their Region I basketball tournament quarterfinal. The hosts then went on to hold off Poquoson’s Islanders down the stretch to advance to the tourney semifinals with a 59-53 victory.
During the regular season, New Kent swept the home/away series with Poquoson, dismantling the Islanders 67-52 at home in early January. But this time, the Islanders came prepared for an upset, controlling tempo with their patient style of play and securing a 33-30 lead at the break.
“They ran their offense like they wanted to, and we couldn’t put pressure on them,” said New Kent coach Ed Allen, whose team improved to 23-1 with the Feb. 23 win.
“I don’t think they missed but about four shots in the first half,” he said. “We weren’t playing that bad, but we weren’t able to cover them and prevent them from hitting open shots.”
Allen made adjustments at halftime, abandoning a customary man-to-man defense in favor of a zone that also created double-team traps for Islander ball-handlers. The move forced seven turnovers in the third quarter and held the visitors to a mere three points. New Kent outscored Poquoson 11-3 in the period.
“The key was going to that 2-3 zone trap and forcing turnovers,” Allen said. “We also picked up the intensity a bit.”
New Kent’s lead could have been more substantial, but the hosts had turnover problems of their own, losing possession on five of their first seven trips down the floor. A 41-36 advantage heading into the final quarter meant the Islanders remained within striking distance. When the gap closed to three just before the midpoint of the fourth quarter, the Trojans spread the floor on offense.
“We didn’t turn the ball over in the stall, and we made two layups and the rest were free throws,” Allen said.
Steven Allen and Everett Christian sank both ends of bonus free throw situations to extend New Kent’s lead. The free throws along with layups from Adam Otey and Paul Kearney off respective assists from Justin Williams and Allen countered four three-point baskets the Islanders managed in the late going.
Allen finished with 21 points while Christian tossed in 12, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out five assists. Kearney ended with 10 points and nine rebounds while Otey contributed another 10 points plus eight rebounds. Williams had five assists to go along with his six points.