Early in Hanover’s Capital District boys basketball showdown with Varina on Friday night, it seemed as if the Hawks would finally avoid the minefield and pick up a signature district victory over one of the “power four” schools. Hanover scored the game’s first seven points in 46 seconds, and within four minutes, seized a 20-4 advantage.
None of this would rattle the Blue Devils, who calmly chipped away at the Hawks’ lead, survived several Hanover attempts to pull away, and hung around all evening waiting for their chance. Patience paid off, as Varina finally took the lead with 3:55 remaining, pulling away to defeat the Hawks 67-55.
“It’s exciting because we show the capabilities of what we truly have, but then we lose focus of that,” Hanover head coach Darren Thornton said outside the locker room after the contest. “That’s the thing we try to keep staying on top of and we constantly talk about, trying to stay focused as a team. We beat ourselves a lot. Every game we’ve lost, it wasn’t the other team; it was more our doing.”
The Hawks outplayed Varina in every facet of the game in the first half, eventually enjoying a 37-27 intermission advantage. But it was a different Hanover team that took the floor for the second half. They were a half-step slower, more tentative, and their shooting began to fail them. Varina quickly trimmed the lead to four, later two, but the Hawks enjoyed one final surge to lead 52-44 on a jumper by freshman Jalen Elliott with six minutes to play.
The ensuing three minutes made the difference, as Varina went on a 14-0 run. Jordan Wade’s jumper ended the run with 2:59 left, but by then, Varina led 58-54. The Hawks didn’t score another field goal and the Blue Devils iced the game at the free throw line. The stat of the game? Hanover scored 26 points in the first quarter, seven in the first 46 seconds. They scored six points the entire fourth quarter. Trayvonte Brown led Hanover with 19 points on the night.
“We’ve got so many guys that can do so many things, and when we play together, it’s hard to stop us,” an upbeat Thornton noted.
He would prove right when Hanover returned to the home gym Tuesday for their county, and Capital District, rivalry matchup with scrappy Atlee. Though significant credit goes to the Raiders for scouting Hanover and neutralizing them much of the game, it was the Hawks who would pull away in the fourth quarter on this occasion, defeating Atlee 72-56.
Without the injured Ross Gardner, Atlee leaned on the inside-outside combo of Rashaun Winters and Brian Miller to take a 31-26 halftime lead. In the third, each time Hanover made a move, it was followed with adversity. Brown began the period with a steal and layup, but Wade and Donte Haynesworth each picked up their third foul within 20 seconds. Later, Haynesworth fouled Winters with Rashaun converting the basket and Atlee extending their lead to 38-32. The Raiders played disciplined ball, not committing a foul in the first six minutes of the second half, while the Hawks had six.
Hanover had a run up their sleeve, tying the game at 42 at the end of three. Back and forth they battled deep into the fourth. A Haynesworth layup tied the game at 48 two minutes in. Atlee responded with five straight points. Haynesworth converted a three-point play to cut the Raider lead to 53-51. Miller missed two critical free throws on the next Raider possession, and Winters could only convert one of two free throws on Haynesworth’s fifth and final foul with 4:07 left.
Elliott drove to the hoop for two, then Brown stole the ball and converted and Hanover led 55-54. The Hawks were awarded two points on basket interference by Winters to take the lead for good 57-55. In the final 2:37, the Hawks outscored the Raiders 15-1.
“We really picked up the tempo on defense in the second half. We fought hard, and I did all I could to help the team so we could get the win,” said Wade, who scored 17 points. “I’m glad we stuck together to the end.”
Brown matched Wade’s 17 points for Hanover (3-4 Capital, 7-4 overall), while Elliott, the always-smiling freshman, added 10. Miller led Atlee (1-6, 3-12) with 21, while Winters added 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Hanover hits the road Thursday to face Maggie Walker Governor’s School in non-district play before their rematch with Glen Allen on the road Friday. The Hawks beat the Jaguars in overtime, 57-55, earlier in the season. Atlee must next tangle with powerhouse Henrico on Friday night.