True grit II: Undermanned Eagles fall to Minutemen

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Liberty takes command in second half

By Mike Forster

  There's a new fashion trend in Moneta.  Well, at least there's one on the Staunton River boys basketball team.

Several players have taken to wearing soft casts on their legs.  As a result, the Eagles are barely able to staff a full squad.  "We can't even have five-on-five scrimmages (during practice sessions)," lamented SR Head Coach Brandon Harris.

The Eagles hobbled onto their home court Saturday night to face tradition-laden Liberty.

Absent big man Cam Holdren and point guard Deshawn Martin, the Rivermen still gave the Minutemen a good fight before falling, 51-38.

Liberty showed some pretty solid gumption itself.  The M-Men shook off the pesky Eagles in opening the third quarter.  That's when Darius McCoy, Cory Witt and Jordan Monroe hit consecutive three-pointers.

"Those are three guys we expect to step up," said Monroe of that trio of stellar seniors.

Their onslaught would give Liberty a lead it would not relinquish.  A steal by Michael Wright was converted by Rucker Shipp to further pad the M-Men lead.

River would not go quietly into that good night, though.

Madisyn Vieira, whose 13 first-half points had kept River in the lead into halftime, came through again.  He nailed a pair of free throws to pull River within five, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Desha Martin opened the fourth quarter with a steal and a layup to bring the Eagles within striking distance.

But Witt struck with a chip shot off a Monroe feed.  Then Monroe drove up the gut to give the Minutemen a nine-point edge.

Adam McKinney's pair of free throws put the final nail into the Eagle coffin (or whatever it is in which Eagles are buried).

Once again, McCoy led the Minutemen offense.  The silken senior posted 21 points for the evening.

Monroe scored 11.  Shipp added eight and Witt tossed in seven.

Staunton River was paced by Vieira's 15.  By the way, this guy looks like your protype inside bruiser.  Be not fooled, my friends.  He has as smooth an outside shot as you're likely to see.

Ricky Farris was good for eight points.  Dustin Yates, who showed nothing but hustle for the night, had five, as did Zach Brown, who's really stepping it up amidst all the injuries.


So what?

On paper (other than on the Bedford Bulletin, that is), this was a fairly meaningless affair:  a good way to pass a Saturday evening.

On the court, though, a number of things showed themselves.

First, Liberty can turn up the juice when it wills itself to do so.  "We're slowly coming around," said Coach Monroe of his crew, which includes seven underclassmen.

"After the first quarter (with River leading 15-8), I told them we have to match Staunton River's energy."

Indeed, the Minutemen did that and more.

Second, Staunton River played this game with the approach that we have come to expect from that school.  That is, the Eagles showed a mental toughness and an unwavering focus.  

That ability was in doubt following an 83-35 thrashing at the hands of Northside last Tuesday, in Moneta.

During that one, the Eagles pretty much watched as the Vikings put on a clinic.  The team that showed up against Liberty bore little resemblance to the one that faced Northside.

Third, the seasons are far from over for both of these teams.  Liberty has grown since the start of the season.  Liberty is 2-4 in Seminole play and has the look of a spoiler all over it.  The M-Men face their biggest challenge, and likely their most critical game, when they head to Rustburg this Friday.  A win there could cement their future as the top Division 3 team in the Seminole.

Staunton River, which has an overall record of 1-12, simply needs to keep it together until its big playmakers get healthy.  Following the Liberty game, Coach Harris said, "I'm as proud of the kids as I can be in a game where we lost."

Then he added, "We can only do so much with all of the injuries."