Hawks fall to Henrico after halftime lead

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Sixteen minutes is not enough.

The Hanover Hawks held a one-point lead on the defending state boys basketball champion Henrico Warriors at halftime Tuesday night in the Bird Cage. But sophomore sensation Monte Buckingham and his junior backcourt mate Ryan Pearson wouldn’t let Henrico be denied, combining for 44 points as the Warriors remained unbeaten with an 85-67 win.

It was Henrico’s first deficit at halftime, a good test for a team that lost seven of its top nine players from their championship squad.

Hanover’s Blake Billups shoots over a Henrico defender Tuesday night. The shot bounced off the rim and was rebounded for the bucket.

Hanover’s Blake Billups shoots over a Henrico defender Tuesday night. The shot bounced off the rim and was rebounded for the bucket.

“Hats off to Hanover; they’re a very scrappy team,” Henrico head coach Vance Harmon said. “They played hard and gave us a good fight. It took a lot of effort to get out of here (with a win).”

The third period was pivotal, as Henrico rocketed to the lead and extended it quickly, a 10-2 run in the first 2:17 giving the Warriors the 45-38 advantage. Eighteen of Buckingham’s game-high 27 points came after intermission, but Harmon credits a more proficient pressure defensive scheme with giving his team more transition opportunities, fueling the 27-14 quarter.

“At halftime we talked about accountability,” Harmon explained. “Guys were losing guys in transition. We kind of settled down on the press and made each person responsible for a person, with more gap control defense.”

Credit senior Jordan Wade for a feisty performance, especially in the second half, when the senior scored 14 of his team-high 19 points to keep the Hawks at least within striking distance. But Hanover’s inability to stop the Warriors’ inside offense, especially on second-chance buckets, prevented any possible comeback.

“Jordan’s really been our catalyst; he’s really been a solid ball player for the past couple of years,” Hanover head coach Darren Thornton pointed out. “I think people have really been overlooking him.”

Henrico decided to quell Cutch Ellis, who had 12 points in the first half, but just two in the second. Double-teaming Ellis prevented him from establishing presence for rebounding on both ends of the floor as well as scoring. Ellis’ disappointment extended to beyond the arc, where he missed each three-pointer he tried. Sophomore Jalen Elliott had 18 for the Hawks (4-2).

The home crowd had plenty to cheer about early, as Hanover clawed back from an early 20-10 deficit with an 11-0 run in the final minutes of the first and opening minute of the second quarter for its first lead, 21-20. The rest of the second period was back and forth, neither team up by more than four, with the Hawks settling for the one-point margin at halftime 36-35.

“This shows that our guys can play with anybody,” Thornton said. “We just have to put together that full 32 minutes.”

The Hawks turn around quickly and prepare for a trip to Atlee for a showdown with their county rivals Thursday night. The Raiders fell to 2-3 Tuesday night with a disappointing 71-67 loss to Varina, and will look to end a three-game skid.

Hanover will get another shot at Henrico on the road Jan. 28. By then, if the Hawks can play for 32 minutes like they did for 16 Tuesday night, they could find a signature victory.

Elsewhere Tuesday, Patrick Henry fell for the fifth straight time, losing at J.R. Tucker 56-47. The Patriots travel to Caroline Thursday for their final game before Winter Break.

The Patriots’ girls team, on the other hand, won its sixth straight to stay unbeaten, knocking off J.R. Tucker 61-45. Three Patriots were in double figures: Summer Price with 22 points, Amber Lee with 14 and India Coles with 10. Patrick Henry faces unbeaten Meadowbrook Friday night in the opening round of the 2013 T-DIT Tournament. The game will take place at Trinity Episcopal School at 6 p.m.

The Atlee girls team captured their first victory of the season, knocking off Varina 53-48. The Raiders, now 1-3, got 14 points apiece from Cierra Shelton and Jamari Blackwell. They host Hanover Thursday night. The Hawks come in 1-5 after a 71-44 loss Tuesday at Henrico.

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