New Kent fourth takes out Western Albemarle
New Kent’s Trojans used an 8-0 run to distance themselves from Western Albemarle’s Region II champion Warriors in the fourth quarter of their Group AA Division 3 state basketball quarterfinal contest on the floor of James Madison University’s Convocation Center in Harrisonburg.
Then the Warriors self-destructed, incurring three technical fouls, an intentional foul, and a player ejection, all in the final minute. The mayhem translated into a 71-55 New Kent triumph and a berth for the Trojans in the state semifinals.
“We did a good job not losing our composure,” New Kent coach Ed Allen said after the late game debacle. “We’ve not played anybody all year that’s as physical as they were.”
New Kent’s run and Western’s meltdown followed what had been a reasonably close contest. The Trojans mounted a nine-point advantage in the second quarter, but the Warriors had pulled back within one at halftime. New Kent then went up by six after the break, but again Western responded, grabbing a 47-46 lead early in the fourth quarter.
With the outcome on the line, New Kent employed a defensive adjustment and spread the floor on offense looking for baskets off penetration or trips to the foul line.
“We switched to a 2-3 trap and played man-to-man on misses and that was a big factor,” Allen said.
“We did not get to the free throw line in the first half, not a one,” he said. “But then we were 14-for-16 in the fourth quarter and that was a big key.”
Western deadlocked the contest at 49-49 on a pair of Travis Hester free throws. But the Trojans’ Everett Christian (16 points) put his team ahead to stay on a drive to the hoop. Fouled on the play, Christian sank the resulting free throw for a 52-49 lead.
“Everett has become our fourth quarter guy,” Allen said. “When you need him, he’s the man.”
Western turned the ball over, leading to a Steven Allen trey. Paul Kearney and Justin Williams added free throws moments later to complete the run for a 57-49 advantage.
Hester’s stick-back with 2:14 to go ended Western’s scoreless skein, but two more Williams free throws bumped the lead back to eight with 1:45 left. The Warriors’ Christian Pierce then buried a three, but the Trojans answered on Steven Allen’s assist to Neko Burson in the lane for a lay-in and a 61-54 lead with one minute to play.
At the other end, Christian drew a charge on Western’s Cody Davis, igniting frustration that had been building up as the Warriors watched New Kent take control. Davis’ complaints drew a technical, resulting in the first two of what would be eight straight Allen free throws. Not stopped by the technical, Davis mugged Allen on New Kent’s next possession, drawing a two-shot intentional foul. Davis’ mouth then led to another technical and his ejection.
Allen stepped to the line to shoot four free throws, but was interrupted after the first when the refs teed up Western’s Dante Crawford. By the time order had been restored and Allen had finished at the stripe, New Kent owned a 68-54 led. In the confusion, however, New Kent lost a point as one of Allen’s free throws did not show up on the official scorebook.
“We weren’t willing to lose,” Steven Allen said afterward. “We played smart in the fourth quarter and didn’t force things or try to do something wild.
“It’s one and done now,” he said. “It’s our senior year, and it’s all on the line.”
Allen and Adam Otey each finished with 15 points while Williams scored 11 and Kearney tossed in seven. Zach Jacobs scored three while Burson and Kaleb Lamb contributed two apiece.
“We were a little quicker than them and turned them over more, “ Ed Allen said. “Free throw shooting is not our strength. We shoot only 51 percent as a team, but when it came down to crunch time, we were comfortable at the line.
“This is the most unselfish team I’ve had,” he said. “We average 25 assists a game and have three guys [Christian, Williams, Allen] who each have over 100 this season.”
Western Albemarle coach Darren Maynard, meanwhile, downplayed his team’s meltdown.
“I thought it was a heck of a high school basketball game for three quarters, but it sort of took a bad turn for us,” he said.
“I take my hat off to New Kent. They shot lights out, and they penetrated and broke us down,” he said. “They put pressure on us and we didn’t handle it very well.”
Pierce, Western’s top scorer with 20 points, agreed that New Kent’s late defensive switch proved to be the turning point.
“The difference was when they went to that 2-3 half-court trap,” he said. “We’d worked on it in practice this week, but we didn’t get to our spots and we were missing too many shots.”