Handley boys shut down Colonels in 55-39 win
WINCHESTER — When it’s almost time for postseason play to begin, it’s always a good sign if a team is playing its best on defense and it appears Handley High School’s boys’ basketball team might be doing just that.
After limiting Millbrook to just 46 points on Saturday night, the Judges closed out the regular season Northwestern District schedule with another solid effort against the James Wood.
Handley limited James Wood to just 16 second-half points, and Cameron Jackson scored a team-high 17 points and senior teammate Jason Morgan added 16 points in a 55-39 victory over the Colonels at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium Tuesday night.
“I’ve been pleased with our effort the last two games defensively,” said Handley coach Jason Toton, whose team had already clinched the regular season district title. “I think we got after it a little bit more, got our hands up and contested a few more shots and limited them in the first half to I think two or three offensive rebounds.”
Jackson and Handley’s seven other seniors were honored prior to the game on a Senior Night that included game highlights of each player on the gym’s new video board — a donation to the school by Joyce Butler McKee Allen. And Jackson and the Judges’ seniors did their best to add a few more plays to the highlight reel.
The 6-foot-8 Jackson pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, Morgan scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and senior guards Tre’ Brown (11 points) and Solomon Finley (nine points) provided both offense and solid perimeter defense on the Colonels’ guards.
Handley (15-2, 7-1) led by double digits once early in the third quarter, but the Colonels (11-10, 4-4) cut the lead down to six before Jackson’s putback staked the Judges to a 37-29 advantage heading into the fourth period.
Jackson’s putback came in a 6-0 Handley spurt the bridged the third and fourth quarters.
Finley scored on a layup off a nice look from Jackson to start the fourth, and then Finley scored on another layup off a nice pass from Brown to put the Judges ahead 41-29 with 6:45 left.
The Colonels’ Ryland Williams and Branson Ratlief both made a pair of free throws, but Wood struggled to find the mark from the field, going more than four minutes without a field goal during a stretch that started with 2:06 left in the third.
Morgan’s three-point play put the Judges ahead 44-33 with 5:53 left, and Nick Goode’s layup at the 5:40 mark ended the drought from the field for the Colonels to cut Handley’s margin to nine.
From there, Morgan knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist from Brown, and Brown added a driving layup to put Handley ahead 49-35 with 4:20 remaining. The Judges’ lead never dipped below double digits from there.
“We just came out with a lot more intensity in the second half,” Jackson said. “We came out kind of flat and weren’t really executing on offense [in the first half]. In the second half, we came out and made a point of locking them down defensively.”
Although Williams led the Colonels with a game-high 19, he only scored four in the second half and Wood’s other two players who average double figures — Peyton Crickman and Cam Butler — combined for just four points. Crickman scored four in the first half, and Butler was held scoreless, finishing 0 for 7 from the field.
“We have big Cam inside who can help us out when we get some bad shots,” Morgan said. “But when we started playing defense and moving the ball around I think that really helped us out in the second half. We always say our defense leads to our offense, and I think that helped us out a lot tonight.”
The Colonels only had six field goals (three in each quarter) in the second half, and shot just 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
“Defensively we were sound all night, but the shots didn’t go in tonight,” James Wood coach Tim Wygant said. “We didn’t get a whole lot of points inside and they do have a couple dominant presences down there and it’s just the way it happens sometimes.
“Our shot selection wasn’t even that bad — the shots just didn’t go in and the shots from the outside were for the most part good looks too.”
Williams carried the Colonels in the first half, scoring 15 of his team’s 23 first-half points. In the second half, Williams said his team just couldn’t get the shots to fall (shooting just 31 percent — 6 of 19).
“We were rolling in the first half and only down by six [29-23],” Williams said. “To come out cold in the second half, we just couldn’t really do anything. It’s definitely not one of our better halves, but there’s not much you can do when you’re not making any shots.”
Handley closed well with an 18-point fourth quarter after just scoring eight in the third. All but two of the Judges’ 55 total points came from their starting five.
With starters accounting for much of the Handley scoring this season, Toton likes that his team has stepped up with two solid defensive games heading into tonight’s regular season finale against Hampshire before heading into the Conference 23 Tournament next week where the Judges will be the No. 1 seed and host a semifinal game next Thursday.
“I thought all of our guards — Tre’, Solomon and KeSean [Robinson] — they got after it defensively a little bit,” Toton said. “Cam’s a good guard, him and Ryland are two of the better guards in the district, so when you hold [Butler] to zero points that’s an attribute to some of the things that our guys did.”
Wygant said the Colonels will play a Conference 21 quarterfinal game on Friday.
— Contact Robert Stocks at email@example.com
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