Buckingham Cruises In Season Opener

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, December 9, 2010

BUCKINGHAM – Though the Buckingham County High School basketball team gave up about two week's worth of preparation to its season-opening opponent Bluestone in the Knights' season-opener Tuesday night, it proved to be no problem.

Buckingham, the 2009-10 Group A, Division 2 State Runners-Up, picked up where they left off last March with a 91-65 victory over the Barons (0-3) at the BCHS Gymnasium.

Buckingham led from start to finish, though it was apparent at times which team was in basketball shape, and which was still playing football about a week-and-a-half ago.

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“We knew coming in that we weren't in good basketball shape at this point, but we wanted to go ahead and get things underway,” said BCHS head coach Russ Gowin. “Either you go ahead and play games now, or you backload them and risk tiring out toward the end of the season.

“Either pay now, or pay later.”

Buckingham chose to pay now. It didn't matter in the outcome, though Bluestone, which trailed by as many as 23 points in the first half, battled back to cut the Knights' lead to 44-33 at the half.

“They knew the situation we were in,” said Gowin. “We knew they were going to try to take advantage of it by pressing us into turnovers once we got tired. You've got to hand it to them, they played well.”

Buckingham was never really threatened in the second half, but after building a comfortable 15-point lead, saw its lead slip to 52-43 on a stickback by Bluestone center Marcus Boyd.

That was as close as things would get for the Barons, however. Buckingham buckled down and started to pull away.

A lay-up by Tarian Ayers with 1:12 left in the third quarter, gave the Knights a 61-49 lead.

BCHS held a 63-51 lead at the break, but went on an 11-5 run over the first two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach. Two free throws by Cam Johnson gave the Knights a 74-54 lead with 5:12 left to play, and Buckingham extended its advantage from there.

“We played defense in spells, and got it together as the game went along,” said Gowin. “That led to some transition points.”

Ayers led the Knights in scoring with 23 points on the night, while Caleb White scored 17. LA Briley chipped in 15 and was credited with seven assists, while Camre Johnson scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds. Senior center Kevin Bolden just missed out on a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks.

As a team, BCHS was 33-69 from the field (48 percent), 4-17 (24 percent) from three-point range, and 21-35 (60 percent) from the foul line.

Bluestone (0-3) was led in scoring by Boyd and Brandon Allen, who scored 15 points apiece. Eric Grendahl scored ten, while Quasheem Pamplin added eight points. Bluestone was 8-15 (53 percent) from the foul line.

After coming ever-so-close to a state title last season, the Knights will have to replace three starters from last year's squad. Instead of replacing individuals, Gowin is looking toward the returning members of the team to pick up their individual games.

“We're actually a little better offensively this year, but our defense is not. That's something we'll work on throughout the year.”

The Knights enter 2010-11 after losing standout Taylor Boyers, and his double-double average. However, the Knights also must replace guard BJ Jones and defensive specialist Harry Eldridge.

“I saw Harry at the game tonight, and remarked to him how we're missing his defense right now. You don't replace those three with three players. Everyone on our team is going to have to step up their individual games if we're to be successful.”

In order to do that, the Knights are going to have to develop more of a bench than they did last season. Gowin said he expects to go between eight and ten players deep.

“We'll go as deep as we can. It's up to how they practice and play as to how deep we go.”

Buckingham (21-4 in 2009-10) broke the 90-point barrier only once last year, and broke 80 only two other times.

Buckingham should be well tested by the time it begins James River District play. Of the Knights' 13 non-district games, 11 are against Group AA competition. The other two are against Region B rival Appomattox.

“We wanted to schedule hard games to prepare us for the district schedule, so we went with a lot of AA schools. I still think of Appomattox as an AA school.”

A deep run to the State Championship game usually puts extra pressure on a team in its next season. However, the Knights should return enough key players in Johnson, White, Briley, Ayers and Bolden to make another run in the playoffs. How deep will depend on how consistent they play on defense.