By Ben Sheridan / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
On Friday night, the Buckingham boys basketball team hosted Stuarts Draft in the Region 2C Semifinal with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
Despite putting up a valiant effort, the Knights the Cougars bested the Knights 89-83.
“I think the first half, we dealt with their gameplan pretty well, I think what changed it a little bit for us was getting into foul trouble late in that second quarter and early in the third,” said Buckingham coach Taylor Boyers. “We couldn’t really go as deep as we wanted to, and they had foul trouble too, it’s just they play 15 guys.”
It was a very back and forth contest as any game involving Stuarts Draft and their signature up-tempo style usually is and in the first half, there were already signs of the coming foul trouble for both teams.
The first quarter was an offensive showcase from both teams. The Cougars were able to execute their gameplan efficiently by attacking from the perimeter, knocking down three three-pointers in the quarter. The Cougars wound up making nine threes in the game.
Buckingham’s balanced attack helped them take a 23-22 lead going to the second. Tae Toney, Damorrious Holman and Xavier Copeland all had five points in the first quarter to help lead the Knights. Toney and Holman finished with 14 each, while Copeland notched 15 points.
The foul trouble really settled in during the second quarter. In fact, each team was in the double-bonus with six minutes left in the half. While each team had their runs, neither was able to create any type of separation as they went to the break tied at 42-42.
In the third quarter, the Cougars began to take control right from the start, going on a 12-0 run after the Knights opened the scoring. That allowed the Cougars to open up the game and essentially control the third quarter, as they wound up leading 67-56. Some key performances for Stuarts Draft included Kasey Branch with 10 points, Kevin Ooten with 11, and Freddie Watkins with a team-high 15.
In the fourth quarter it was more of the same for the Cougars as they grew their lead to as much as 15 points.
However, the Knights fought back with help from Amari Toney, who led the team with 20 points, and they were able to make it a five-point game late.
“I thought we had a good gameplan going into it, and we didn’t back down from them,” Boyers said. “Both teams traded blows and it was back and forth, they went on a run in the third and extended their lead, but we were down as many as 15 in the fourth made it a two-possession game late, just didn’t make quite enough plays down the stretch.”
While the Knights showed great effort in a physical, frenetically paced game, in the end the Cougars were the ones celebrating the win.
The loss ended the season for Buckingham, and while it is early to think about, almost all of this year’s roster, which won the regular season and tournament district titles, is slated to return next season, which gives the Knights a lot to be excited about.
“We have one senior, James Devore, he’s done a really good job for us all year and throughout his career, and we return a lot,” said Boyers. “I told the guys we took Buckingham basketball and put it back on the map, we had a little lull there for a little bit, but I think we’ve made it important again, so it’s been a heck of a season.”