New Kent survives comeback scare, escapes Charles City with win
After the opening minutes of the third quarter, New Kent’s Trojans held a 23-point advantage over the hosting Charles City Panthers in Saturday’s night contest in what appeared to be a runaway matchup. But in a rivalry game between these two foes, nothing is ever a sure conclusion until the final buzzer goes off.
But the visiting Trojans survived two furious rallies from the Panthers, scoring their last 20 points from the free throw line and enabling them to escape Charles City with a 79-68 win and enter the win column for the first time this year.
After the Panthers gained an early 2-0 advantage, New Kent’s Zach Manley drained a three-pointer to put the visitors ahead. A steal by Mitch Morse led to another Manley score in what amounted to a 14-2 run by the Trojans. After Panther center Jawuan Bowman cut the deficit back to single digits (14-6), New Kent orchestrated another 10-1 run, capped off by a Jalen Banks trifecta. The visitors’ advantage grew to 17 (29-12) as the teams entered the second quarter.
Charles City attempted to utilize a zone defense in the second stanza, but New Kent’s penetration led to multiple fouls by the hosts. The result saw New Kent attempt 23 shots from the free throw line, draining 19 of them and carrying the Trojans to a 51-34 halftime lead.
Three straight lay-ins by Manley to start the third quarter provided New Kent’s its largest margin on the night (57-34). But the Panthers switched to a man-to-man defense that rejuvenated the cardiac cats. Christian Stewart’s three-pointer along with his steal and assist to De’Rome Chretien trimmed the lead to 18 (57-39). A pair of baskets by Panther guard Justis Crawley sandwiched a score by Trojan guard Ryan Curle, while another lay-up by Stewart cut the Trojan lead down to 13 (59-46). That lay-in by Curle, however, would be the last basket from the field on the night for the visitors.
After New Kent’s Jared McCaughan bumped the lead back up on a pair of free throws, Charles City’s Cameron Johnson found Davon Johnson driving to the basket for an uncontested score. Justin Bradby’s putback for the hosts squeezed New Kent’s lead to 11. The double-figure advantage was wiped away after Chretien’s three-pointer reduced the margin to nine (62-53) with 2:24 in the third quarter.
But the visiting Trojans recognized that Charles City was playing overly aggressive in their man-to-man defense. Driving to the hoop, New Kent went to the line the next four trips down the floor, converting six of eight from the charity stripe and regained a double-digit lead (68-54) heading into the fourth.
Charles City made one last rally behind guard Cameron Johnson. The freshman would account for the Panthers next 12 points, as the hosts defense kept New Kent from scoring from the field. Johnson’s pull-up to conclude the run returned the Trojan lead to a mere eight points (74-66).
But the Trojans continued to find ways to the free throw line. Fouling out two Panther players, two free throws from Banks, two from Curle, and one from Robb Kinder would be enough to stretch the advantage back to double digits and seal the win for the Trojans.
After the contest, victorious New Kent coach said that this game provided his team a good lesson about playing a full 32 minutes.
“I thought we could handle their man-to-man defense,” he said. “But we begin to rush shots and we didn’t close out the game.”
While the Trojans didn’t close from the floor, they did from the free throw line, draining 39 of 53 attempts. By comparison, Charles City only got to the line 20 times, converting 11 of their attempts.
“I didn’t want to press Charles City while we were up,” Cox continued, mentioning the 20-point advantage. “But Charles City didn’t quit and they played hard. We are going to take this win as a learning experience and hope these kids grow from it.”
For Charles City, head coach VaShaun Otey, who makes the move to the boys’ team after spending six years as the head coach of the Lady Panthers program, said that his team played a lot better than his first outing at Southampton a few nights before.
“When we started out in the zone, we were too complacent,” Otey said. “We didn’t contest their shots even though I thought the zone could’ve worked.
“But we picked up the intensity with our man-to-man in the second half and I’m proud of the way we played,” the coach continued. “Tonight, we just dug too deep of a hole.”
As far as the free throw disparity was concerned, Otey implied that his team has a 15-man deep roster and the style would naturally lead to fouls.
“We want to be aggressive because we are so small,” he added. “These players need to know that they can trust their teammates on the bench to come in and get the job done as well.”
New Kent (1-2) placed four players in double figures, led by McCaughan’s 16. Curle scored 14 while Manley and Kinder both contributed 13 apiece. Morse tossed in eight, Banks pumped in seven, three each from Ben Housden and Ke’Sean Taliaferro, and Anthony Battari chipped in with two.
Charles City’s (0-2) received a team-high 15 from Cameron Johnson. Stewart and Crawley also finished in double digits with 12 and 11, respectively. Bowman contributed nine, Chretien tossed in seven, Davon Johnson pumped in six, Kobie Trull added three, Tanner Grubbs and Bradby each scored two apiece, and Steven Trull chipped in one.