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Lions boys capture third straight title

 

James Smith Jr. scored a game-high 20 points, and the Halifax County Middle School basketball team claimed its third straight Southside Middle School Conference Tournament championship Saturday with a 35-28 win over Russell Middle School.

Halifax County advanced to Saturday’s tourney title game with a 43-30 win over Bluestone in Friday’s semifinals, also played at Nottoway.

 

Lions’ Head Coach W.J. Long pointed to a quick start on both offense and defense as keys to the win, although Russell rallied late to make a game of it.

“We got off to a good start with our defense paving the way in the first half, holding Russell to just nine points,” said Long.

“We have emphasized defense all year long, and we have really focused on playing it properly and with aggression.

“It paid off tonight keeping Russell frustrated from the floor.  They had to scrap for every point they got, and nothing was easy.”

Smith hit two three-pointers in the first quarter and Jarvis Owens scored three of his eight points for the game as Halifax took a 9-3 lead after one quarter.

Will Miller hit a three-pointer, Nick Jones hit a basket for two of his four points for the game, and Smith added a bucket in the second quarter to help give the Lions a 16-9 lead at halftime.

Smith went 3-4 from the foul line and added a field goal as did Owens in the third quarter, but Russell outscored the Lions 11-8 to trail only 24-20 with a quarter remaining.

Halifax held on in the fourth quarter, sinking five of 11 free throw chances and getting another three-pointer and bucket from Smith, in addition to a three points from Owens and two foul shots from Jones to seal the win.

The Lions were 9-19 at the foul line as a team for the game.

Russell rallied to get even with Halifax at 23-23 early in the fourth quarter, but his team did what it had to do down the stretch to claim the win, according to Long.

“James Smith hit a couple of threes early on to get us a nice cushion,” said Long.

“In the second half they came out of the man-to-man defense and went to another defense, something like a 1-1-3, with lots of ball pressure as soon as we hit half court, and then they went to a box and one on James Smith in the fourth quarter.”

“We got a little sloppy in the second half and let them penetrate and get to the rim.  It cost us several times and allowed them to get a back in the ball game,” Long continued.

“Their coach got two technical fouls as the game heated up and we hit three of the four foul shots.  We pulled away at the end, hitting a few fouls shots to give us some breathing room,” added Long.

“James Smith played well for us as did Will Miller, who drew a charge and played good defense all night long.  It was a good team effort, and we were very relieved to beat Russell for a third time this year.”

 

Halifax County 43 Bluestone 30 (Semifinals)

Smith and Owens scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, and the Lions cruised past Bluestone Friday to reach the championship game.

Jones scored eight points, Tylik Powell and Kelonte Gutrich scored four points apiece and Jacob Garrett added a point at the foul line for the Lions, who were 9-20 at the foul line for the game.

Halifax got six first-quarter points from Smith to help it take a 14-8 lead entering the second period, and Halifax got scoring from five different players to help it build a 23-15 lead at halftime.

The Lions slowly pulled away in the second half, with Smith, Jones and Owens each hitting a pair of baskets in the third quarter as Halifax took a 35-23 lead.

Halifax kept that margin down the stretch, with Owens scoring five fourth-quarter points and Smith two.

“We maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half,” said Long.

“We played fairly well but just didn’t rebound like I had hoped, giving Bluestone way too many second and third chances.  “Our defense was a bit off, as we didn’t close out the shooter as quickly as we should.

“We did hit some nice open shots for a change and the offense ran fairly smooth.”

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