By Matthew Yoder
Arcadia played to its strengths of speed and defense and employed some timely 3-point shooting to dismantle Broadwater Tuesday night in Exmore, 51-38.
The Firebirds relentlessly pressed the Vikings from the outset. Lethon Williams stepped into the passing lane on Broadwater’s first possession and raced to the basket for an easy layup. Williams, along with Kamron Downing, set the tone early on defense for Arcadia, disrupting Broadwater’s push up court.
When the Vikings moved into the half-court game, they more ably broke down the Firebirds with dribble penetration, using the size of Clay Wardius to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line.
Though outsized, Arcadia was aggressive on the boards in the first quarter and equally drove the ball into the heart of Broadwater’s size on offense. Williams slipped into the paint and fed Keith Grinnage on the baseline for a smooth release jump shot. A few plays later Jaden Hope directly challenged Wardius and scored for the Firebirds.
Willie Holden helped keep pace for Broadwater in the quarter with a couple of made baskets, but it was apparent the tempo was being established by Arcadia to its benefit. The Vikings ended the quarter ahead by the slimmest of margins, 11-10, but it was the last time they would hold a lead in the game.
William Scarborough was inserted from the Firebirds bench to start the second quarter and helped change the direction of the game immediately. Downing ran the point for Arcadia and found an open Scarborough behind the 3-point line. His perfect release ended in a swish. Scarborough again found himself open on the following possession in the same spot, and Broadwater’s lack of respect for his jump shot ended with a similar result. Broadwater was noticeably rattled. Scarborough commanded their respect behind the arc the remainder of the evening whether he made the shots or not.
Grinnage continued to play well from the bench for the Firebirds as well. He fought hard for rebounds and stood his ground on offense, completing an “and one” for the Firebirds, as they raced to a 10-0 run to start the quarter.
Marvin Johnson stopped the run with a couple of buckets for Broadwater, but the quarter was a runaway for the Firebirds. They took a 26-17 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was more of a draw. The teams traded baskets and Broadwater failed to make a dent in Arcadia’s lead. Kylen Wharton paced the Firebirds with two baseline 3-pointers in the quarter, and Williams added 6 points on a variety of transition scores.
Holden and Johnson made threes for Broadwater but they still found themselves trailing by 11, 40-29, at the end of the quarter, and their fatigue started to become more of a factor. The majority of fouls in the second half were called on the Firebirds, but the Vikings failed to convert their free throws effectively. Broadwater coach, Eddie Spencer, summed up their inability with numbers.
“We were 70% on our free throws in the first half and 35% in the second half, part of that is fatigue,” said Spencer.
Back-to-back baskets from Vikings’ DJ McCaleb and Wardius prompted a timeout from Arcadia coach, Rodney Armstrong, midway through the fourth quarter. The Firebirds kept their composure and held onto the ball with great ability at the close. Williams described the need for the late timeout and the resulting effect.
“We just mentally broke down, coach called an excellent timeout and we had to gather it all in again and get back to the same pace,” said Williams.
He scored two more layups for the Firebirds and finished with a game-high 18 points on near perfect accuracy. Scarborough joined him in double figures with 10 points.
Wardius paced the Vikings with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Holden added 11 points.
The game was not a complete effort in Armstrong’s eyes, but he was happy to leave with a win and praised the play of his bench.
“I was pleased with the bench. Keith Grinnage played exceptionally well,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong believes his players need to dictate the tempo a little more to their benefit but realized the nature of trying to find rhythm in the early part of the season.
“We should be controlling the game a little more because our guard play is better than the opponent,” said Armstrong. He added, “We’ll get there, it’s just the first game.”
Spencer applauded the effort of his team but lamented the execution at times.
“We played hard, when you play a team with as much athleticism as they do and trap like they do you’ve got to be patient At times we were patient and got the shots we wanted and at times we weren’t and we turned the ball over and they got layups,” Spencer said.
Spencer sees a more difficult path ahead for his team.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We play in a tough conference and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we’re going to play this year,” said Spencer.