Orange boys jump out early to beat Monroe

In a year where so many teams are building or rebuilding and just finding a way to deal with the deluge of local talent that left last year, there are lessons to be learned in November basketball. Two of them fall in the same category and both the William Monroe and Orange County boys basketball teams got a taste of it on Tuesday night. No lead is ever safe and no deficit is ever too large. It’s an easy take away from the Hornets’ 62-46 win over the Dragons.


“Part of our process to being a winning team is to make sure that we have the same intensity in the second half that gave us a solid lead in the first and I think we faltered a bit there,” said Orange County coach Adam Utz. “We got out in front because our defense played with intensity that led to points on offense. That’s what we want to do and it was good to see early.”


In a 10 minute stretch between the first and second, the Hornets mauled the Dragons. Turnovers forced by pressure and more by shaky feet by Monroe that were unforced were paired with a huge first half in the paint from Orange’s KaeShaun Braxton and outside shooting from senior counterpart Jordan Shook. That paved the way from a 6-6 tie early on to a 29-2 run the broke the game open.


“We played very good defense (there) and got back and offense was working,” said Braxton who had 17 first half points. “We were very excited, getting really hyped before the game and I just thank my teammates for giving me this opportunity (to have a big game).”


It was a spree that pushed Orange way out in front at 35-7 late in the second quarter, and one that made Utz proud as the Hornets got most of their points in transition and off of turnovers.


“Monroe does a really good job of running their stuff and part of our goal was to get them out of the things that they do well,” Utz said. “We put a lot of pressure on the ball and that led to success early.”


But the rest of the game wound up belonging to Monroe, in a weird way. The Dragons answered with a 10-4 run to close the half to make it 39-17 thanks in large part to Logan Barbour. Then Monroe outscored Orange 13-7 to start the third and make it a 17-point game midway through the third with Alex Kinsey’s shooting paving the way.


“We cannot back down from anyone, defensive and offensive intensity picked up there and I was pleased with how they responded,” Maynard said. “I think for a lot of the kids it’s their first varsity game. They were, we were just nervous. There were a lot unforced turnovers there. That’s part of the learning experience and our best basketball is ahead of us for a team that has no seniors on it.”


The Dragons got to as close as 14 points, but couldn’t quite land the shots to make it a single digit game.


“If we could have made a few more shots there, who knows?,” Maynard said. “And we had the looks.”


Nonetheless, Orange learned being up by 28 in the first half isn’t something that’s concrete, a good thing to find out for a program that’s looking for its first winning campaign since the ‘08-’09 campaign in Utz’s second year as a coach.


“The process is learning how to win,” Utz said. “We’re working on it, trying to make it a culture here at Orange. When you’re up 20 it’s just easy to relax.”


On the night, Braxton lead Orange with 27 points. Shook had with a quartet of 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Brandon Franklin chipped in nine points.


For Monroe, Kinsey had 15 points. Barbour finished with 12. Darrell Watson threw in eight points.


The Dragons (0-1) will face Fluvanna County on Friday while the Hornets have Madison County on Saturday.