We Have a Winner: Longwood makes it 3-0 in Brock Challenge
Published 10:17 pm Sunday, November 26, 2023
On Sunday afternoon, Longwood men’s basketball refused to fold against Bethune-Cookman in the final game of the Brock Challenge.
Instead, the Lancers (6-1) answered the bell with a dominant second-half defensive display in a 69-48 win, their sixth straight victory that also kept them undefeated at the Joan Perry Brock Center.
The Lancers only allowed Bethune-Cookman (3-4) to make five shots in the final 20 minutes, and the suffocating defense gave the team its best record through seven games since the program’s Division II days in 2000-01.
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It was a day where nothing came easy on the offensive end for a Longwood team that came in averaging nearly 80 points per game. Three players finished in double figures for Longwood, but seemingly every possession was contested as both teams played their third game in three days.
Instead, it was the defense that brought its hard hat and lunch pail to do the dirty work.
“I think these tournaments are so good because it really exposes a lot of our strengths and weaknesses,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “It also is really helpful for the guys. They hear the things you are telling them in practice, or you play one game, and sometimes they don’t believe you. But when they see it over and over, boom, boom, boom, boom, that’s really important.”
Breaking down the numbers
While Johnathan Massie led Longwood with 18 points, he and Walyn Napper, who delivered 13 points, were seemingly everywhere defensively. The duo racked up 10 steals, with seven coming after halftime. They repeatedly stepped into passing lanes and took the ball from Bethune-Cookman as part of an aggressive swarming defense that closed off every option.
DA Houston chipped in with 15 points, one shy of his career high, and he provided his trademark grit as well in a team-leading 30 minutes.
While the defense was good in the first half, it hit another level in the final 20 minutes. Down 28-27 at the break, the Lancer five didn’t surrender a made shot, and only one made free throw, for the first 7:52 of the second half.
Meanwhile, Napper and Massie found a rhythm, and the Lancers took the lead in the Brock Challenge finale and never looked back. Napper hit a pair of foul shots for a 38-29 lead with 12:21 to go. Bethune-Cookman hit a shot on the next possession, but Houston drained a three to give Longwood a double-digit lead.
From that point on, the defense did the rest. The lead grew to as much as 22 as the five-man Lancer hydra was everywhere, cutting off driving lanes, contesting shots and never backing down.
“I think the big challenge is, for this team right now, is finding and establishing its identity to play with purpose and intensity,” Aldrich said. “(In) the Lamar game, the first 30 minutes of the game, we played extremely hard and really imposed our will. Then the last 10 minutes, I thought we really dipped. In the first half tonight, we were playing at their pace. I thought they outcompeted us. They were playing a lot harder than we were for every loose ball.
Lancers look beyond Brock Challenge
“This is something that this team has to mature, to understand that you have to compete and you have to play harder than the other team. You have to want to win more than the other team,” Aldrich said. “We’ve got talent, but we’ve got to have purpose, we have to have relentless effort, we have to have urgent focus to win every single possession. I think that’s one of the biggest steps that this team saw this weekend, was — Delaware State, I did not think we played well the entire game until the second overtime or the end of the first overtime. Lamar, they were great, and then tonight, the second half, we imposed our will again. You see the results.”
Longwood stays home for one more game before hitting the road, as the team hosts Newport News Apprentice School on Thursday, November 30 at 7 p.m. The match will air on ESPN+ and on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.