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Basketball off to tepid start

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By Mike Forster

  Non-district basketball play opened in gymnasiums across the county.

While the games have no bearing on standings, seedings and such, they do provide an insight into what can be expected once Seminole play begins.

Boys off to interesting start

Liberty has scads of talent.  The question is whether the team can put together a full-game effort.

After three games, the Minutemen faithful are scratching their collective head.  

After getting beaten by Lord Botetourt by 20 points, Liberty had another go at James River, with a chance to get well against a scrappy squad.

Instead, the Minutemen played erratically.  Showing flashes of brilliance behind the efforts of Carlton Payne (34 points for the game) and Chris Harmon (23), Liberty built up a 33-13 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Falling into a sloppy play mode punctuated with attempts at razzmatazz, Liberty watched James River’s steady style of play push the Knights to within two points, 72-70.

Harmon responded with a steal (for a layup) and a pair of free throws to finally put the game away.

At this point, the Minutemen’s fundamentals are not keeping up with the speed at which they are attempting to play the game.

Staunton River, meanwhile, has some serious physical limitations which it more than makes up for in determination.

In a 50-43 loss to Bassett, the Eagles showed tremendous heart though less-than-tremendous shooting skills (15-for-50 from the field).

Trailing by 15 points with two minutes remaining, the Eagles’ Wesley Gates and Geary Cunningham unleashed from the three point line to close to the final margin.

Gates, the Liberty transfer, plays like a man possessed.  He is quick and quick-thinking.  His game, alone, is worth the price of admission.

Eagle Head Coach Chris Carr was pleased with what he saw in the opener.  “We’re better than we were last year,” he said.  “We still have some things to learn, though.”

The schedule is rife with learning opportunities, starting with this Thursday’s tilt at James River and the Eagles’ District opener on Monday at Liberty. 

Jefferson Forest, in the meantime, could prove to be one of the more exciting teams in the area, if its game against Appomattox is any indication.

The Cavs fell to Appomattox in its home opener by the score of 52-51 on a last-second put-back by MJ Pennix.

The Cavs trailed by as many as 11 points to a team that stacked up, on paper, as a far superior opponent.  In fact, JF Head Coach Paul Smith had called this game as a vital test of the team’s mettle.

Consider his charges to have passed that test.  

Brandon Harrison, playing at the point, showed hustle and tireless enthusiasm throughout the game, not to mention a nice touch with his outside shooting.  

Harrison led the Cavs with 17 points.  The shortish Harrison even tallied on a put-back against the longer Raiders.

Ted Price played a ferocious game in the paint and Todd tenPas showed some real flashes of brilliance in coming up with 14 points.

Coach Smith is renowned for not reveling in moral victories.  Nonetheless, the showing against a powerful Raider outfit has to give him some comfort going into the team’s district opener at Heritage this Monday evening.

Some surprises on girls’ side

One of the more pleasant surprises of this young season seems to be over at Liberty.

The Minettes won their season opener in what could be a good portent for the E.B. Watson coaching era.

Leading Liberty in the 52-39 win over Altavista were Brandi Witt (13 points), Kenara Hurt (12) and Cat Padgett (10).

Lachelle Starks pounded the boards for 15 rebounds (10 were offensive rebounds).

“She was our beast last night,” said Watson of Starks.

The Minettes found themselves down by 10 points in the third quarter, but went on a very fruitful run, which resulted in a 24 point swing. 

The most impressive thing is that the Minettes were able to put up 28 points in the fourth quarter.  There have been times when a Liberty team didn’t score 28 points in a game.

“We need to play all our quarters like that fourth quarter,” noted Watson.

The Minettes took it on the chin to Lord Botetourt, in subsequent action to move to 1-1.

They play Altavista at home tonight (Wednesday) and open District play Friday, hosting Staunton River.

Staunton River, for its part, played a very good Franklin County team on even terms before falling 55-51.

The Eagles were paced by Kelly Jackson’s 26 points.

“That’s the kind of team I like to see,” said SR Head Coach Kim Jones.  “We played to the very last second.”

Jones’s charges followed their momentum and took care of James River 55-33.  Jackson, again, led the way with 16 points.  Laquaksha Robinson added 13, to go along with her 11 rebounds.

Jefferson Forest dropped its opener to that same Franklin County team, before roaring to life behind the inspired play of  frontcourt players Renae Brooks and Jessica Quarles.

In a 37-23 win over Appomattox, Brooks posted 9 points, while Quarles added 10.  Rachel McKeague, appearing to back to full strength, chipped in 11 to lead all scorers.

Last Saturday, the Lady Cavs beat up on Altavista 51-36 behind another fine effort from the post players.  Brooks had 19 points and Quarles tallied 13.

“Jessie Quarles and Renae Brooks have given us a tremendous amount,” said Forest Head Coach Paul Redgate.  “I’ve put a lot on them as they both play almost every single minute of the game.  I’m really seeing a lot of improvement even in the short span of 3 games. “

Forest opens District play Friday, hosting Heritage.