Handley boys hold off Pioneers
Posted: January 5, 2013
WINCHESTER — In surrendering just 59 points a game in winning eight of their first 10 games, it’s fair to say that what the Handley boys’ basketball team has been doing on defense this season has worked for the most part.
But even the best teams need to adjust and reach into their bag of tricks at some points, and a new wrinkle from the Judges played a sizeable role in helping them emerge on top in a defensive slugfest with arguably their biggest rival.
With the score tied with 6:03 remaining, Handley went to its rarely used 1-3-1 zone, then continuously mixed up its defensive looks during a 9-2 run over a span of more than five minutes.
A couple of late 3-pointers nearly brought Millbrook back, but in the end it was the Judges who walked off the floor with a 51-49 victory in the district opener for both teams in front a packed Casey Gymnasium Friday night.
“Changing defenses helped us a lot,” Dixon said. “We haven’t used [the 1-3-1] very much this year, but the guys came through big. We got a lot of traps, and that helped us.
“I think it caught them off guard a little bit, and we executed it well.”
In the immediate aftermath of going to the 1-3-1, the Pioneers had two turnovers and another empty possession, and their only points over the next five-plus minutes came on a Cody Brooks putback with 2:23 left. The Judges (9-2, 1-0 Northwestern) also used a 2-3 zone and a man look in that stretch.
That ultimately proved too much to overcome for the Pioneers (7-4, 0-1), who trailed 48-41 with 41 seconds left after turning the ball over on three straight possessions.
Millbrook also wasn’t able to overcome Handley’s big men.
Cameron Jackson was about the only consistent force for Handley in scoring 10 of his 18 points in the first half, which saw the Judges lead 24-22 at the break. At the end, Jackson sank two huge free throws with 15 seconds left to push the lead to 51-47. Brooks scored with two seconds left to cut the deficit to two, but the Pioneers were out of timeouts and couldn’t stop the clock.
And Darion Robinson — who struggled with foul trouble for much of the game — came up huge in the fourth quarter, scoring seven consecutive points for the Judges to take them from a 39-38 deficit to a 45-41 lead.
Five of Robinson’s points came on free throws, and for Millbrook coach Scott Mankins, seeing the Judges parade to the line in fourth quarter was the hardest thing for him to stomach.
Millbrook had played excellent defense in holding the Judges to 33 points, two free throw attempts and 14-of-37 shooting through three quarters while scoring 34 points itself, but the Pioneers sent Handley to the line for 18 free throws in the fourth, 14 of which the Judges hit.
“Defensively, we played a pretty good game for the most part,” said Mankins, who got a game-high 20 points from Rze Culbreath. “But I think the last six minutes of the game we stood and looked. We’ve got to make teams earn what they get. We can’t give them free ones like that. We can’t react to things. You’ve got to be ready to do what you’re conditioned to do.
“But that’s a very talented team [in Handley]. I’m disappointed with the result, but not disappointed in the effort we got.”
Dixon said he’s come to expect the type of effort that Robinson gave in the fourth quarter, and for Robinson, he was just glad he had a chance to prove himself. Robinson (60 percent for the year coming in) worked hard on free-throw shooting before Friday’s game, and he hit 5 of 6 Friday.
“I don’t think we came out and played as hard as we could have,” Robinson said. “But I do think we did a good job when had to and responded when we had to. Starting the district season off 1-0 is always good.”
Tre Brown added 10 points for Handley and Adrian DeNeal had 10 points for Millbrook.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1