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It’s been a long layoff for area high school teams. Between exams and weather closings, a one-week break quickly became two weeks, so there was little time to shake off the rust for Hanover and Lee-Davis when their basketball teams tipped off Tuesday evening off Route 360.
In the end, a lightning fast start for the Hawks became the ultimate difference in the game, as Hanover scored the first 11 points of the night, then held off the pesky Confederates 54-39 in Capital District play.
“We knew getting an early start was something we wanted to do,” said Hanover head coach Darren Thornton. “But we knew they were a team that wouldn’t quit because of the county rivalry. We knew we would have a battle.”
Jesse Tuck finally put Lee-Davis on the board with a jumper with 3:42 left in the opening quarter to make it 11-2, with the Hawks leading 15-5 after eight minutes. The Hawks, though, went cold, giving the Confederates opportunity to climb back in at 19-13 before going to intermission down 26-19.
Lee-Davis came out on fire in the third, scoring back-to-back buckets in the first 40 seconds. Suddenly, the lead was three.
“The start of the third quarter was really great,” Lee-Davis head coach Rob Rice noted. “The rest of the third quarter really killed us.”
It would be more than five minutes before the Confederates would tickle the twine again, giving Hanover the chance to return the lead to double digits on an 8-0 run to make the score 34-23. When Jordan Wade drained his only three-point attempt of the night as the buzzer sounded, Hanover had a 44-29 edge with eight minutes to play.
The blue-collar Confederates refused to quit, cutting the lead to eight behind leading scorer Josh Brown’s 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals. But when Hanover freshman Jalen Elliott hit a trey with three minutes left to up the lead to 11 again, the final Lee-Davis push was over. Joining Brown in double figures for Lee-Davis was Ladarein Autry with 10 points, while Autry, Randall Ramsey and Austin Rice all grabbed six boards as Lee-Davis outrebounded Hanover 41-35.
Practically the entire Hanover team contributed as Thornton substituted very deep into his bench, as 14 players saw playing time, with eight of them contributing points. Elliott led the way with 15, while Wade ended with 11 points and 11 rebounds and spark plug guard Trayvonte Brown overcame foul difficulty to chip in 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals.
“I’ve been telling the guys that one of our strengths is we are one of the few teams that can go 15 deep,” Thornton said. “We know that guys can step up any game and we’re looking for them to step up.”
Hanover (4-4 in Capital District, 8-4 overall) will need all hands on deck as they, like other teams, will have to play many games in few days down the homestretch thanks to Mother Nature. After playing at Atlee Thursday, the Hawks welcome the top two teams in the district on consecutive days, hosting Henrico (15-2) on Friday night, then Armstrong (14-2) on Saturday afternoon. Monday night the Hawks visit Glen Allen, then they travel Tuesday to Highland Springs. Three of their next five games are against teams who have been ranked in the Top 25 in Virginia this season.
Lee-Davis (0-9, 4-13) made good a game against Highland Springs Wednesday night, then must travel to Varina Friday and host Atlee on Tuesday, looking for that elusive fast start, and first district victory.
“I commend my guys. They played hard. Hanover’s a heck of a basketball team,” Rice opined. “If we can stay in our system, get everyone involved, pass before quick shots…if we can play our style for 32 minutes, we’ll be there.”