The last three weeks had been a test of fortitude of the William Fleming boys basketball team.
A pair of thrilling wins over crosstown rival Patrick Henry, a ruling of an ineligible player that turned a Western Valley regular season championship into a one-game playoff loss to GW Danville, and a rematch in the district tournament in Danville with those same Eagles.
Fleming regrouped long enough Saturday night to easily take down Patriot High School from Manassas 66-37 in the opening round of the Northwest Region tournament played at the Fleming gym.
When asked if he was happy to see a game like this, a smiling Fleming head coach Mickey Hardy admitted, “Yes, it was good to get a breather. We’ll take what we get.”
Fleming clearly had the upper hand on the visitors from Northern Virginia from the opening tip. The Pioneers fought a cold shooting night and were plagued by turnovers all evening as the Colonels continued to expand their lead.
Fleming led 15-7 after the first quarter, and after Patriot went over 4 1/2 minutes to start the second quarter without scoring, and managed just six points in the quarter, took a 28-13 lead to the halftime break.
Patriot managed to close to within 37-24 with three minutes left in the third quarter before the Colonels closed on a 12-1 run to effectively put the contest away with the 49-25 advantage heading to the final frame.
Fleming, despite some defensive lapses and several Patriot baskets on offensive putbacks, upped the lead to 30 as the bench was cleared for every Colonel to see action.
“This was not as good as we can play, especially our team defense and rebounding,” Hardy added. “The guys know it wasn’t their best effort. We’ll get back to practice and refocus. They (the tournament games) don’t get any easier.”
Warren Craft led the Fleming scoring attack with a game-high 21 points. Senior guard Stevenson Paul added 14 points for the Colonels while Adrian Dungee chipped in 10. Paul and Dungee each hit a pair from behind the arc for four of Fleming’s 6 three-pointers. Patriot failed to connect from long distance in the entire game.
by Bill Turner