Depth, athleticism key J-Hawks victories

By Matt Nestor

Sports Columnist

The Jefferson J-Hawks started slow in their NIC-10 conference opener against the Guilford Vikings.

But a strong third-quarter push gave Jefferson the lead, and timely fourth-quarter shooting allowed Jefferson to pull out a 72-63 victory on the road in the conference opener.

“Anytime you can get a road win in our conference, it feels great,” Jefferson head coach Todd Brannan said. “We did not play our best ball in the first half. But we were able to hang on and make enough plays in the second half to pull out the win.”

The J-Hawks were able to execute well on offense with their passing. But Jefferson struggled for much of the game with their shooting, missing several open looks.

The difference in the game was the pressure applied by the Jefferson defense. The full-court press of the J-Hawks continually forced the Vikings into turnovers that led to a lot of easy baskets.

“I thought (the pressure) might have bothered them,” Brannan said. “That’s the strength of our team. We’ve got a lot of quick kids and some interchangeable parts. That’s our strength, and we have to try and play to it.”

Quavion Kimball led the Vikings with 17 points. Brandon Blankenship chipped in with 12.

For Jefferson, balance was the name of the game. Five players scored in double figures, led by Mario Manns, Mershon Wilkes and Davontay Lewis, who all scored 12 points. Jermarkus Lovett and Mike Chisamore both scored 11.

Jefferson followed up the next night with a 68-56 victory over the Freeport Pretzels to get off to a 2-0 start in the conference. The J-Hawks blew an 18-point halftime lead before a strong fourth-quarter finish sealed the victory.

The only thing that did not go well for Jefferson over the weekend was their shooting. They did struggle knocking down some open looks. But Brannan said a lot of that had to do with their style of play.

“I thought we did miss (some good looks),” he said. “We may have been a little tired. We’re pressing a lot. Missed free throws. Fortunately, it didn’t cost us tonight, and we made enough shots to get the win.”

In other NIC-10 action:

The Boylan Titans stayed perfect after a trip through Belvidere, opening up the NIC-10 schedule 2-0 with a 67-37 win over Belvidere North, followed by a 90-58 win over Belvidere. Austin Angel averaged 16.5 points per game over the weekend.

Joseph Danforth scored 22 points in a victory over Freeport, who dropped their first two conference games, in their conference opener. He followed that up with 31 in a victory over East. Fred Van Vleet scored 16 in both games.

Guilford stayed winless in the conference following a 73-58 loss to Hononegah. Mario Donaldson scored 21, while Stanley Moore chipped in 20 in the win. That win followed an opening-night victory over Harlem to give the Indians a 2-0 conference start.

Belvidere North topped Harlem to start off 1-1 in the conference, while the Belvidere Bucs beat East to also get off to a 1-1 start. Harlem, East, Guilford and Freeport are all off to 0-2 starts in the conference.

From the December 9-15, 2009 issue

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