Hanover High waging uphill battle in tough Capital District

In any other district in the Central Region this season, the Hanover Hawks would have enough talent and offensive firepower to fight for a championship. But the Capital District in 2012-13 is simply special, and, instead of competing for the title, the high-powered and exciting Hawks may only come out with a fifth place finish to show for it.

Hanover’s Juwon Jefferson drives through Henrico’s Trayvonte Brown and Trey Toliver. The Hawks fell to the sixth-ranked Warriors 99-66.

After hanging with Henrico, the sixth-ranked team in the state according to VirginiaPreps.com, before falling on the road 99-66 Friday, the Hawks battled Highland Springs, ranked 18th in the Old Dominion, wire to wire before falling Tuesday at home 77-74. Hanover is now 2-3 in the Capital, 5-3 overall.

Before the heartbreak of Tuesday came the disappointment of Friday. The Hawks hung the entire first half with the Warriors. Hanover would have had a lead after a quarter, but a Trayvonte Brown athletic layup down the middle at the buzzer was thrown out due to offensive interference, and Henrico led 21-20. Back-to-back jumpers by Chris Gilliam and freshman Jalen Elliott gave Hanover what would be their biggest lead of the night, 26-23. But when Timmy Jones stole the ball from Brown and converted a layup, Henrico took the lead for good with 5:15 left in the half.

“I wasn’t happy with our performance in the first half,” Hanover head coach Darren Thornton said, though the Hawks stayed within striking range at 45-38. “There were so many little things we didn’t do, rotating defensively, staying within our own offense, and ball movement.”

The second half began with treys from Jordan Wade, then Brown, and the Henrico lead moved to 45-44. The Warriors then reached back for a new level of play, outscoring Hanover 20-6 over the next seven minutes to seal the game, ending the third period up 65-50. Hanover was destroyed on the boards, out-rebounded 63-29.

“Rebounding dictates games, and we do it at times, but we have to do it over 32 minutes,” Thornton noted.

An 11-for-29 night at the free throw line also hampered the Hawks, who were led by Brown’s 24 points and Wade’s 14. Marvin Smith Jr. led Henrico with 18 points.

During that pivotal third quarter, the game got chippy, with the visiting Hanover faithful calling on the officials to call technical fouls over aggressive play before and after the whistle by the Warriors, but one never came. Henrico outscored Hanover 32-16 as reserves played out the string for both sides.

The lessons learned by Hanover served them well, but not well enough Tuesday night when they welcomed Highland Springs, a team that already sports losses to Henrico and Armstrong and did not want to fall further behind in the Capital. After falling behind by four, the Hawks went on a 22-12 tear to hold the halftime lead at 38-32. The Springers responded in the third, fueled by an unconscious performance by freshman Curtis Jones who scored 30 points, including six three-pointers, to tie the game with eight minutes to go.

In the end, the Springers made the necessary stops, overcoming a season-high 23-point, five-steal performance by Donte Haynesworth to eke out the 77-74 victory. Trayvonte Brown added 22 while Jordan Wade had 12 points. The win will help Highland Springs not only stay in the upper echelon of the Capital District (3-2 in district, 7-4 overall), but also in the state top 25. The Hawks fell to 2-3 in the Capital, 5-3 overall, with all three defeats coming to Top 25 teams (including #5 Armstrong).

The road gets no easier for Hanover as they continue a three-game homestand Friday against the other surprise story in the Capital District, Varina, followed by a rivalry game Tuesday against Atlee.

“We haven’t played as many games as the other teams in the district,” Thornton noted. “They have the ability to rely and trust each other. Some of Henrico’s players have been together three or four years. We’re still working on that.”

The improvement from Henrico to Highland Springs shows that, at least, the work has the Hawks headed in the right direction.

Posted on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm