By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
With the Christmas break looming, the T.C. Williams girls and boys basketball teams made the short trip to Edison High School looking to avenge losses against the same opponents last year.
In their home gym last season, the Titans lost the varsity boys game 70-49 and the girls game 72-61. But this year, both teams hoped to carry momentum from wins away to South County High School in their first regional games of the season.
In a hostile environment amidst a vociferous home support, the Titans could not quite manage two wins, as the girls squad won 45-35 but the boys lost 56-52 despite being ahead by as many as 11 points in the third quarter.
Under new head coach Bryan Hill, who joined T.C. before the start of this season after Julian King’s resignation, the Titans stayed with the talented Eagles through the opening half. Having consistently trailed by two points, T.C. guards Jordan Jones and Tavaris James led a late surge that put the away side ahead by six at halftime.
Their momentum continued in the third quarter, but as the second half wore on the Eagles managed to gain a foothold in the game and start to chip away at the Titans’ lead. They pulled away late in the game after some unforced errors from the Titans, and in spite of a desperate finish from the visitors, Edison saw off the challenge and took a 56-52 victory.
Hill’s charges saw their record drop to 1-3 with the loss, but he was pleased to see his side make progress and believes they are continuing to improve as a program after a tough 3-17 campaign last year.
“Our guys played hard, I’m happy with the effort and it just didn’t bounce our way tonight,” he said after the game. “It happens sometimes, and that’s what it is.
“I think we’re still improving as a team. I don’t believe in moral victories, but what I do know is that we’re getting better as a team, and our character is developing. Our identity of who we are as a team is forming and so I’m going to continue to coach and the kids are buying into what we’re teaching them, and it’s showing in their effort on the court. You’re not going to win in a hostile gym like this with ease.”
Jones finished as T.C.’s top scorer with 12 points and three rebounds, while Eagles Drew Lakey and KB Reid hit 13 points and 12 points respectively for the home side.
Before the boys defeat, the Titans girls impressively disposed of their Eagles opponents, led by sophomore forward Bhrandi Crenshaw and senior forward Grace Peterson. Both made use of their considerable height advantage to dominate the home side, with Crenshaw scoring 18 points and Peterson grabbing 19 rebounds. Crenshaw also added five boards of her own.
The first half was very tight defensively, with both teams adapting well to the frantic pace the game was being played at. When the halftime buzzer sounded, T.C. were up 19-15, having recovered from an early deficit to eventually find their rhythm.
They pulled away in the third quarter to lead by eight points, then as time expired Crenshaw nailed a buzzer-beater to put the Titans up 32-22 heading into the break.
The visitors continued to play aggressively, with their taller players continuing to make life very difficult for their Edison opponents, and closed out the game with a final score of 45-35. It improved the Lady Titans’ record to 5-2, and owed much to their ability to limit turnovers.
“We knew that once we gained the lead that it was important for us to take care of the basketball and also focus on their main players,” T.C. head coach Kesha Walton said after the game. “For us, we wanted to value every possession and take it one possession at a time, and so once we knew we were up, we wanted to know where their main scorers were on defense.
“We didn’t want to rush anything, we knew they were a good transition team, so we had to make sure we get back and most importantly not let them get in their rhythm.”
For Crenshaw, it was an effective performance, especially since it helps the Titans gain some momentum ahead of more regional matchups.
“I thought I did really good rebounding, trying to stay out of foul trouble and everything,” she said after the game. “We’re feeling really good, we feel we can win all the way now and go all the way.”
The win means the Titans are already in a strong position after a 20-5 season last year, and Walton wants her side to maintain this quality if they are to be as successful.
“I want them to stay at this level, so we’ve got a couple of games coming up over the Christmas break, so we just want to keep moving in this direction,” she said. “We’ve got momentum going, we want to keep going.
“We lost a couple of games early to some good teams, they were close, both by four points, and that right there shows we’re there. The fact that we’re young, not too experienced, I’d say it’s a bright future for us and we’re excited about that.”