by Bill Turner
Early in the third quarter Tuesday night, it looked as if the end of the Patrick Henry basketball season might be on the horizon.
The Patriots had endured a frustrating offensive performance and Stonewall Jackson-Manassas had slowly built what appeared to be a comfortable nine-point lead.
“I told the guys, we gotta go now,” Patriot Head Coach Jack Esworthy noted afterward. PH picked up the pace on both ends of the floor and Stonewall Jackson failed to capitalize on opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, as PH pulled off the 55-48 win in the Northwest Region quarterfinal on the Woody Deans Court.
“There was a sense of urgency, but we didn’t panic,” Esworthy added. “We just stayed with what we do best.”
Stonewall Jackson led 23-20 at halftime, and 35-33 after three quarters. The teams traded leads early in the fourth quarter and, with PH holding a slim 42-40 advantage, Stonewall Jackson failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity that ended up being a potential 8-point turnaround.
A substitution gaffe resulted in PH being assessed a technical foul for too many men on the court. Stonewall Jackson missed both of the technical free throws, and given the ball at midcourt, turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass, which Marcus Banks promptly converted into a layup and foul. PH suddenly led 45-40 and used the momentum to hold off the Raiders down the stretch.
“They (Stonewall Jackson) were averaging 72 points a game,” Esworthy pointed out. “They have some big-time players over there. I felt good when we held them to 23 in the first half. Our offense hurt us early, but we started making some shots in the second half and that got us over the hump.”
Banks led the PH scoring attack with 24 points, leaving him just shy of the 1,000-point mark at PH. B.J. Hamlett added 7 for the Patriots.
Patrick Henry (21-4) advances to face Gar-Field (24-1) Thursday night at PH.