by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Lancaster’s appearance in the state boys basketball tournament has become commonplace. But there’s nothing common about making the final four and being among Group 1A’s elite.
For the second straight year, Radford High School stood between the varsity Red Devils and the Virginia High School League Group 1A crown. The defending state champion Bobcats defeated Lancaster, 70-61, in last Saturday’s semifinal game at Virginia High School in Bristol. Radford will move on to the state title game today, March 9, at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond against familiar opponent George Wythe-Wytheville, which beat Essex, 56-48, in the other semifinal.
Fans in the Northern Neck were hoping for an all-east state championship game, however, it’ll be a Region 1A West grudge match.
“2012 was meant to be. That was our year,” said LHS coach Tim Rice of the Red Devils’ state championship win five years ago. “This year it wasn’t meant to be, just wasn’t meant to be. That’s all. But we’ll be back there next year.”
The Devils (20-5) have made a name for themselves as a basketball powerhouse. Rice has taken his Devils to the state tournament six times in eight years, winning the Group A, Division 2 championship in 2012. Lancaster has been in the semifinals four times and has been in the big game twice. Radford claimed last year’s title with a 54-44 win over the Devils.
The Devils won its quarterfinal game, 75-66, over Honaker last Friday in Bristol but knew Saturday’s game against tournament favorite Radford would be a hurdle.
“We [knew] we had to be patient and take good looks and make good shots,” said Rice.
Unfortunately, the Devils shots were off. As shooting percentage goes, last Saturday’s game was among the worst Lancaster’s had this season. The Devils shot only 38% from the field and 26% from three-point range.
“We started off okay and I subbed late in the first quarter,” said Rice. “I felt good, they played well and we were holding our own and were actually up 16-14. My thought was that my starters would be fresh for the second quarter but then Radford got the momentum.”
Taylor Newcome hit a pair of free throws to give the Bobcats their first lead in the second period, 22-12, and the two teams traded shots for a two-minute span before Radford started to pull away. The Bobcats led by as much as eight before Lancaster shaved the lead to five at the half, 40-35.
Radford took charge of the game in the third, outscoring Lancaster, 15-7, including an 11-2 run to end the period.
Quinton Morton-Robinson, who finished with the game-high 31 points, scored seven points, including a three-pointer, during the third quarter spurt. Morton, who plays taller and tougher than his 5’6″ stature, drilled three three-pointers in the second quarter for a 12-point period.
“Robinson was the one we were concerned with,” said Rice. “Our goal going in was to put a full-court, man-to-man press on him the whole game. But he was hot. He scored 12 points over his average. Had we kept him to his average, we could have won.”
Unfortunately, Lancaster’s James Coleman, the Conference #43 player of the year, scored below his average of 13 points per outing, finishing with eight points. Coleman got in foul trouble early in the game, going to the bench with three fouls with three minutes to play in the second quarter.
Lancaster’s Darius Reed came off the bench for one of his best games, scoring 17 points to lead three double-digit scorers. Martez Davis turned in a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Calvin Henderson finished with 10.
Radford had opened its lead to as much as 18 in the fourth quarter before Lancaster made a late run, getting as close as 65-58, with two minutes to play with a 10-3 run that included five points from Reed, who scored 12 in the period.
Although Lancaster actually outrebounded the Bobcats, 43-25, Radford shot an impressive 53% from the field, 50% from three-point range and 54% from the foul line. The game included eight ties and 12 lead changes with Lancaster only leading for a total of four minutes.
James Coleman scored 13 points in the fourth quarter as Lancaster finally pulled away from Honaker for a 75-66 win in last Friday’s state quarterfinal.
Coleman finished with a game-high 29 points, including 20 in the second half.
The Tigers led a low-scoring first half, 27-25, after playing to an 11-11 knot in the first quarter and rattling Lancaster with a slow-down offense.
The Devils got seven points each from Coleman and Darius Reed for all of Lancaster’s scoring in the second quarter. Six Devils stepped up to find the bucket in the third when Lancaster put up a 21-20 effort that left the Devils down by one. Finally able to make a run, Lancaster took a nine-point lead, its biggest of the game, with four minutes to play.
Honaker, with a three-pointer by Alex Anderson and a couple of Blake Stinson foul shots, cut the lead back to five before Coleman scored back-to-back for the Devils.
Martez Davis finished with 14 points for Lancaster, which got 26 points from its bench. Reed chipped in 12.
Three of Honaker’s starting five finished in double digits with Anderson scoring 26 to lead.