Clarke boys beat Madison, 65-53
Posted: February 8, 2013
Special to The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — Clarke County boys’ basketball coach Brent Emmart did not like how Madison County’s zone defense was slowing down his offensive attack.
The Eagles had just a four-point lead heading to the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Bull Run District Tournament quarterfinal and Emmart decided it was time to force the Mountaineers to come out and play man.
Holding possession to begin the fourth, the Eagles had to wait only a few seconds before Madison County went with the flow and switched out.
The change was a welcomed by Clarke County, which built off its powerful swing in the third period to open with an 8-0 run in the fourth to get the lead out to 12.
The Eagles (12-11 overall) coasted from there to win 65-53 to advance to the district semifinal round next Wednesday against Strasburg, which topped Central 67-51 on Thursday. Third-seeded Clarke County will face the second-seeded Rams (18-4) at 6 p.m. at William Monroe High School.
The Eagles were able to pull away from pesky Madison County (7-16) by opening and closing the fourth period strong. Besides scoring eight straight points to begin the period, Clarke County closed with an 11-4 run to gain a needed win that the team knew it most certainly had to have.
“If we had lost, we would have been done,” Emmart said of the Eagles' chances at a Region B bid. “There are just too many Division 2 teams in our region that are either first or second place. Right now, we would be an eighth seed and play [Bull Run regular season champion] William Monroe, and if we beat Strasburg, maybe we go to the seventh seed. We're just not going to move up all that much.”
As one of two seniors that are counted on heavily by the Eagles, Davey Hardesty had a lot to do with Clarke County's second-half comeback.
A regular stat stuffer, Hardesty had 19 points (11 in the second half), four steals, five assists, and provided just the right leadership at point guard to help the Eagles extend their season.
“They’re a really good team and at the start of the game it seemed like they were hitting all their shots,” said Hardesty of a first half that ended in a tie at 31-31. “They came out with a very good game plan and just played well. Then we realized that it’s the postseason and that we really needed to win. We started attacking the basket and getting easier shots.”
The Mountaineers came out in a zone defense, forcing the Eagles to try and gain a foothold early by knocking down perimeter shots. Half of the shots Clarke County took in the first half came from behind the 3-point arc, and sophomore guard Sean McDonald (17 first-half points, 27 in the game) was right on at times (three of his four 3-pointers came before the break). But being limited at getting shots close left concerns with Emmart.
“That zone just slowed us down,” Emmart said. “We couldn’t get the ball in the short corner and behind the zone, and Sean was hot early and Davey kept hitting him with that pitch-handoff. But we didn’t get any inside looks against the zone. We played Madison on Tuesday [a 69-59 Clarke County win] and they made some great adjustments preparing for us.”
The Mountaineers appeared on the cusp of pulling an upset by using a 9-1 run to start the second half to go up 40-32 with 6:03 left.
Sharp-shooting junior guard Bobby Ford showed no fear anywhere he chose to shoot on the floor, and he drained a pair of 3-pointers and added another jumper to score all but two points in the Madison County run.
Ford finished up with a team-high 18 points (to go with 10 rebounds, four steals, and four assists), making four 3-pointers in the game.
“Ford can shoot it from deep and he kept them in the game,” Emmart said. “That stretch there where he got hot —- he had a step-back [3-pointer] —- and that’s when they went up eight points. He made some difficult shots. There were a couple times we lost him on ball fakes, but overall, he just made some difficult shots for them.”
The Eagles worked their way back and dominated the rest of the third period, stepping up their pressure defense in the process. Picking up at half-court, Clarke County roared back to close the third on a 14-2 run, holding Madison County without a basket over the final six minutes.
Still down four points, the Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take a 46-41 lead with 1:39 left in the third. Morgan Warfield (eight points) scored off an outlet to get things started, Hardesty scored the next three points (including off a steal), Josh Dulaney got second-chance basket, and Hardesty got to the rim again and scored for a five-point lead.
The Eagles led 46-42 heading to the fourth, then really took off. Facing a man defense was much to Clarke County’s liking.
In just under a minute, Clarke County got eight straight points and went up 54-42 with 6:28 left. Hardesty made two free throws, Warfield again scored off an outlet (and Hardesty assist), and McDonald got two easy baskets.
Madison had seven turnovers in the third period and turned it over five more times in the fourth when it got outscored 19-11 down the stretch.
“That press gave us some tempo,” Emmart said. “It gave us some transition opportunities and changed the tempo of the game, instead of [Madison County] bulking up and getting set up in their zone. We got more of an up-and-down game, which is what we wanted.”
Since steady guard play has been an issue for his team all season, Madison County coach Ben Breeden could only watch as history repeated itself and Clarke County enjoyed a 20-point swing over the final 14 minutes.
“We had a feeling that if we didn’t have the lead or within one possession that they would definitely hold the ball and pull us out,” Breeden said of the start of the fourth quarter. “That’s what they did when we played up here earlier this year, which is really smart since we don’t match up that well when we have to play man.”
The Mountaineers were also hindered by junior center Matt Temple picking up his fourth foul in the third period. When he played under control, Temple (11 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, five assists) made solid contributions.
But Madison County could not overcome 23 turnovers and a 39.2-percent night (20 of 51) from the field.
The Mountaineers got as close as five after Temple got second-chance points with 3:36 left to play. But Clarke County iced it when Warfield made a strong baseline drive for two, McDonald scored off a drive, and McDonald hit both ends of a one-and-one with 1:28 left to make it 60-49.
The Eagles also got nine points from senior guard Cody Taylor, and Dulaney led the Eagles with nine rebounds.
“When we pulled them out of the zone, it seemed like from there we controlled the lead,” Hardesty said. “We kept that lead and our defense really stepped up. We forced a lot of turnovers in the second half and it led to easier looks. That was really key in our win tonight.”