By Allen Kha / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
MADISON — After dropping its first two games of the season to Commonwealth District opponents, Orange County needed to earn a victory before returning to unforgiving conference play, for confidence’s sake. Saturday evening, the Hornets nabbed thier first victory of the young season, an emphatic 51-35 win against Madison County.
Orange (1-2, 0-2 Commonwealth) came out of the gates playing with ferocity, executing a full-court press against the Mountaineers (1-2) and successfully commanding the early rhythm of the game. Approaching the game with their usual “32 minutes of hell” approach, Orange — led by seniors Justin Buckner and Tyler Seal — used aggressive defense and transition play to jump out to an early 11-0 lead to start the game.
After four minutes of play and a sizable Hornets lead, the pace of the game slowed down considerably as Madison grew into the game. The Mountaineers, who had a considerable size advantage with forwards Matt Temple (6’6”) and Nick Paxton (6’7”) on the floor, ran through their offense and got the ball into the post, but were unable to capitalize.
“We just couldn’t make shots tonight, especially from inside. We had the size advantage and used it to get second chances, but you need to convert those chances,” Madison coach Ben Breeden said. “[Orange] played a fast-paced game and brought the intensity early, and we didn’t respond to it well. Too many turnovers and mistakes that played into their game.”
The Hornets had a balanced first quarter, scoring four of its 18 points off of the Mountaineers’ nine first-quarter turnovers, five off free throws, and nine — all three-pointers — off methodical and patient offensive possessions.
“We needed to come out of this game with a positive result, and the team played like it needed that,” Orange coach Keyode Rogers said. “We’re obviously not a big team, but we can play the transition game and play smart. We have great senior leadership, and that showed tonight.”
After the impressive first-quarter display, Orange fell into a cold-streak in the second quarter. With the Hornets shooting at a 20-percent clip in the quarter, Madison — using its size advantage — took control of the game’s rhythm and finally started to capitalize on its size advantage in the interior.
The Mountaineers — still turnover-prone — weren’t able to fully capitalize on Orange’s cold streak, however, and entered halftime trailing 27-16. The upstart Hornets used strong half-court play and free throws to run out to a 41-25 lead by the end of the third quarter, before closing the game out with a 51-35 victory.
“We had an opportunity to close the gap in the second quarter when Orange went cold, but turnovers, other bad decisions, and poor shooting ourselves just didn’t help us get it done,” Breeden said.
For Orange, the victory was its much needed confidence booster.
“We can shoot the ball like we showed tonight. So sometimes it’s up to our leaders to recognize that we don’t need to play at such a fast pace, that we can slow it down and be methodical,” Rogers said.
“Players like Justin [Buckner] and Tyler [Seal] recognized that, and that helped us get the victory tonight. We’ll win by playing smart and hard — we even won the battle on the boards tonight [Orange had a 33-23 rebounding advantage].”
Seal — who ended the evening with 13 points, 3 steals, and 2 assists — added: “it was a positive result tonight and we needed that. As long as we keep improving, especially with our free throws — we can’t shoot 60-percent like we did tonight — we’ll keep getting better.”