- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Huntingtown boys basketball coach VaShawne Gross said one of the keys to the season is playing well at home. The Hurricanes have done that thus far this season and are unbeaten in the friendly confines of the Hurricanes’ gymnasium, though visiting Northern gave them a run for their money on Wednesday.
The Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0 SMAC) led by as many as 13 points early in the fourth quarter but had to stave off a furious charge late in the game to secure a 47-41 win.
“We’re a young team and when you can get some wins like this early on, we’re pleased,” Gross said after the Hurricanes improved to 3-0 at home. “The biggest thing with us is we have 13 home games and that’s our biggest thing: Try and win at home. If we can protect our home we’ll be fine.”
The Patriots (1-4, 0-1 SMAC) lost their third straight game, though two of them were by seven points or fewer.
“We’re heading there; the bright thing is they never give up and they play hard but now we’ve got to win,” Northern head coach Frank Moore said. “When you don’t win you go, ‘What if?’ and we’re right now in a bunch of what ifs? We played well enough that possibly we could be 5-0. You’ve heard this from the pros to college to high school; we’ve got to learn how to win. That’s our big thing right now, we have got to learn how to win.”
But Northern did almost exactly that on Wednesday as it charged back to throw a scare into the Hurricanes.
Trailing 40-27 in the opening minutes of the final quarter, the Patriots six straight points - the last two coming off Bobby Argent’s steal and subsequent layup to pull to within 40-33.
With 1 minute 56 seconds left, Argent fell backwards and crashed to the floor but his shot somehow banked in off the glass and in and his free throw on the foul made it 44-38.
Later, Adam Gross’ rebound made it 44-41 with 56 seconds to go. But two three-point attempts by the patriots failed to drop and Huntingtown hit three free throws to close out the win.
“We got in a spurt where we got a little tired so we made some mental mistakes,” Gross said. “I should have called timeout but it was non-conference but I wanted us to get through it. If it was a conference game we would have to know how to play.”
Marcus Sims scored a team-high nine points for the Hurricanes while Eugene Hawkins added eight, including two free throws in the final seconds.
“My number was called and I just did what I had to do; I just made sure my team got the W,” he said. “We let up at the end and we gave up some easy transition buckets and we didn’t get back on D but we pulled it through and got the W.”
Huntingtown pulled ahead when it scored the last nine points of the first quarter to snap a 9 all tie and headed into halftime with a 28-20 lead.
The Hurricanes increased their lead in the third when Eric Roberts scored the first five points of the third period.
“Right now we’re looking to him for leadership and tonight he led,” Gross said of his junior forward, who finished with seven points. “He led with five points at a crucial time and he stepped up. He’s a kid who probably didn’t think he was going to start a lot for us but we’ve asked him not just to start to be our best post player and be a leader and it’s a lot but he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and he’s stepped up to the plate.”
Meanwhile, Northern’s shooters went cold as they went through a stretch of 7:11 which spanned the end of the second quarter and most of the third without a point.
“We just can’t do that,” Moore said. “If we can score we can win. We’ve got to score. Our defense is coming; you’re going to have breakdowns on defense but I think we’re playing awfully well on defense.”
“They’re a good ballclub,” Gross said of the Patriots. “They’re coached well, they have some good kids and they were running stuff.”
Gross said the key to the win was staving off the late charge as well as his team using its size advantage.
“We’re bigger and we try to pound it a lot,” he said. “We do have one of the biggest teams in the SMAC so when you can pound and pound and pound you’re kind of good. They don’t play bad defense so we can play them on a small forward and that’s something we’ve been working on. Good help D and we’re trying to utilize our size this year.”
Gross also added that the early success is helping his young team, which has just one senior (Sims).
“We’re still building so the more experience we get,” he said, “the better I think we’ll be down the stretch.”
Meanwhile, a few feet away, The Patriots might not be seeing the fruits of their labor in the win column, but it’s not for lack of trying.
“You hear all coaches say, ‘We played hard’ but I think if you see us play this year that we play awful hard,” Moore said. “You can’t take the playing hard away from them. We still make a couple mistakes and not make good decisions at certain points of the game and defensively we have a lapse here and there but they’re playing hard.”