Facing a team determined to press and trap, Buckingham County found a way to break both of those ploys from archrival Cumberland in the first quarter of its semifinal match in the James River District tournament. However, a run from the Dukes in the second half negated. The Knights found their form though in the third quarter, and by saddling Cumberland with fouls all night long by attacking the basket, they did held true in the fourth quarter to move on to the championship game with an 80-66 win.
“I thought our kids held their composure here in a packed house in our biggest rivalry,” said Buckingham coach Russ Gowain. “It’s the fourth time we’ve played them this year and maybe our last game at home. Our seniors, they wanted to make sure that if it is, they go out on top. You know the families (from both schools), a lot of them work together and so there’s been a lot of talk the last 48 hours. So our kids really stepped up and played well.”
After building up an 11-point first quarter lead on its passing and aggressive approach to the hoop, the Knights watch their comfortable lead all but disapate midway through the second as the Dukes created turnovers, rode 3-point shooting and back door layups to make it a 2-point game. Early in the third Cumberland got to within a point of the lead, but Buckingham never trailed in the second half as they continued to distribute and convert on wide open looks in easy spaces, with the stats telling the story as the lowest field goal percentage for any player was 42 percent.
“We talked about (their defense) a lot, about staying patient and we did that by limiting the turnovers and making a lot good passes,” Gowain said.
With Tarian Aryes, Cam Johnson and L.A. Briley all having big first halves, Kyree Koonce, Tyrique Bartee and Drequan Scott all stepped up in the second half to go up 12 late in the third quarter. In the fourth, with Johnson hammering Cumberland with fouls, the Dukes finally faced the unfortunate reality of going into the bonus in both the first and fourth quarter. The Knights got up by 17 in the middle of the fourth, and having solved the press and trap, were able to grind down the clock to wrap up the win.
“We knew coming in that the pressure was going to be on our guards so we has to stay focused, stay on our game,” Johnson said. “We had to settle down, be patient and put points on the board”
Remarkably, five players finished in double digures for Buckingham. Johnson led the effort with 19 points on a night where he hit 12 of 14 free throws.
“The guys depend on me when it gets late to get to the line,” Johnson said “As a captain, I’m just trying to be a leader and get easy points and get the other team in foul trouble.”
Bartee hit a pair of 3-pointer in the first quarter, but was a post presence after that to finish with 17 points. Ayres come awfully close to a triple-double for the second straight game with 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Koonce and Briley both added 12 points. Koonce also picked up eight rebounds. Scott came off the bench to score seven points and haul in five boards.
Buckingham (19-3) will play Amelia on Friday for the JR championship. A win there would guarantee a home game for the Region B tournament.