New Kent blows 20-0 lead, falls 54-51 to Colonial Heights in Conference 25 semis
Seven minutes into their Conference 25 basketball semifinal with Colonial Heights, New Kent’s host Trojans owned a 20-0 lead. Unfortunately, it would take just over 20 minutes for the Trojans to net their next 20 points.
In between, the Colonials gradually erased New Kent’s seemingly comfortable margin, bypassing the Trojans late in the third quarter. Trailing for all of the final quarter, the Trojans’ last ditch bid to force overtime came up short, enabling the Colonials to escape with a 54-51 Thursday win along with trip to the conference final as well as next week’s region tourney. New Kent’s season ended at 12-11.
“We got out of the gate fast and transitioned pretty well,” said Trojan coach Ronnie Cox. “We never allowed them to get into their offense, and that’s what we planned to do. I thought we had the game in hand at that point.”
Colonial Heights could not make headway in the face of New Kent pressure defense. The hosts shot 57 percent from the floor in building the 20-0 advantage. The Colonials, meanwhile, missed 13 straight field goal tries before Deion Stover scored in the paint with only seven seconds left in the opening period.
New Kent then converted just two of 13 shots in the second quarter. By halftime, the Colonials had cut the 20-point deficit in half (24-14).
“We made too many mistakes against their 2-2-1 half-court press/trap,” Cox said. “We had practiced against it, but we made the mistake of dribbling into it.”
Colonial Heights placed pressure on the ball, often surrounding ball-handlers with three defenders. New Kent turned the ball over on 10 occasions in the third quarter, contributing to the visitors’ comeback. With 1:28 showing on the clock, the Colonials grabbed their first lead (32-31).
Dean Powell, who scored 12 points off the Trojan bench, banked in a shot in the lane to put the hosts back in front 33-32. Seconds later, two Brandon Smith free throws returned the lead to the visitors, who took a 36-33 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Twice in the final period, New Kent closed within one. Then with 2:41 remaining Kyle Claytor drove the lane to tie at 45-45. But two length-of-the-court drives, first by Smith and then by Stover, plus a Stover three-point play with 1:30 left, put the visitors up 52-45. The Trojans, meanwhile, came up empty on three straight one-and-done possessions.
Down by five (54-49) as time wound down, Claytor drove the baseline to close the gap to three. On the ensuing inbounds play following a Colonial time out, Jared Lugg intercepted a Colonial pass and fired the ball to Claytor for a game-tying three with two ticks left, but the shot caromed off the rim.
Claytor tied Powell for team-high scoring honors with 12. Jordan Hernandez scored 11, all in the first quarter, while Amari Brown tossed in eight. Ryan Curle, C.J. Reeders, and Evan Branch added two apiece. Stover scored a game-high 23.
“We scratched and clawed at the end and got within striking distance,” Cox said. “Sometimes we pull these things out and sometimes we can’t.
“But we had a winning season,” he said. “We’ll try to regroup and pick up the pieces and try to build on what we accomplished this year. The sun will come up tomorrow, and we’ll fight again another day.”