- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
With three and a half minutes left in the game, Halifax County Middle School appeared to be on the brink of being able to successfully closing out its season opener against Bonner Middle School. The Lions had come from behind to take a three-point lead and had swung the momentum its way. Unfortunately for the Lions, the win slipped their fingers.
Bonner rallied down the stretch to pull off a narrow 47-43 win, leaving first-year Lions head coach W.J. Long and the Lions players saddled with the disappointment of losing their home season opener.
“It was a home game and we felt like we had the talent to do the number,” Long said. “It just didn’t pan out. We knew it was going to be a close game. In the end, the ball didn’t bounce our way. We missed a lot of shots that I thought we were going to make and we turned the ball over too many times.”
Tyler Stephens led the Lions with 19 points, a dozen of which came in the second half. He canned an eight-foot jumper with 3:39 left in the game to give the Lions their largest lead of the second half at 41-38.
Halifax County managed only two points after that, opening the door for Bonner to remain in the thick of the game and eventually pull off the win.
A lack of rebounding was one of the glaring obstacles that stood in the Lions’ way.
“I was really disappointed with that (rebounding) because we felt like we had the physically superior team,” Long pointed out.
“But, to their (Bonner’s) credit, they had a big athletic team. They had a couple of big guys in the middle and we got out of position a lot and didn’t box out like we wanted to.”
Halifax County had a tough time at the outset, falling behind 9-3 at the end of the first seven-minute quarter. Bonner upped its lead to 11-3 in the first nine seconds of the second quarter.
The Lions rallied late in the quarter, outscoring Bonner 12-2 down the stretch to take a 17-15 lead at halftime.
“The guys came out jittery,” Long remarked.
“They were super-amped up for the game, really rushing through the offense. We got behind and came back and took the lead but, at the end, it just wasn’t our night.”
The Lions second-quarter rally set the stage for an intense second half that saw the game deadlock on four occasions, the final time coming when Bonner tied the contest at 41-41 with 1:41 left in the game. In all, the game was tied on eight different occasions.
While the loss was disappointing, Long said it was game that the team can use to learn a lot of valuable lessons.
“It wasn’t a conference game, so it didn’t hurt us in that respect,” Long pointed out.
“It was a good learning experience. I’m glad that the first game was a tough game so that the kids can see what they have to do. I’d rather have it happen this way than to come out and beat some cupcake by 50 points.
“That might sound a little stupid,” Long continued, “but you don’t really learn much like that. I like games like this. It’s fun to coach them, it’s fun to watch the kids play and it’s a learning experience for them.”
Long will have a good amount of time to prepare his team for its next contest. The Lions will be idle until they go on the road on Tuesday, Dec. 1 to face Gibson Middle School in Danville.