By Matthew Yoder
Both Chincoteague and Northampton effectively heeded the audible demands of their coaches, but in the end the Yellow Jackets’ adjustments played right into their wheelhouse and drove a 77-62 win Tuesday night in the Pony Pen.
Northampton opened the game playing unselfishly, which led to good looks for easy scores. Keshawn Robinson-Taylor swung the ball on the baseline to an open Brayden Washington for a 3-pointer and Jeremiah Major had similarly good court vision to find Washington in the paint for a layup. The Yellow Jackets’ defense then spurred consecutive layups from Vonte Coston and Robinson-Taylor, the latter a 3-point play as result of a foul. Northampton appeared to be cruising early, but their offense hit a wall.
In the seesaw first quarter, Chincoteague responded to the calls of coach Timmy Johnson to “attack.” TJ Pitts led the Ponies’ charge, and his teammates followed suit. Brandon Bundick hit a 3 for Chincoteague, igniting the crowd, and aggressive drives by Trent Clark and Landon King yielded results, with King’s basket putting the Ponies ahead late in the quarter.
Ahmad Scarborough responded with a jumper in the lane for Northampton, but Pitts put Chincoteague ahead again with a 3 a few possessions later. The first quarter ended a draw at 14 apiece, much to the chagrin of Northampton coach Wayne Bell. Bell expected more from his team, urging, “on offense y’all gotta move.”
It was a game where both coaches really seemed to get the best of their players from pointed statements, and the Yellow Jackets executed Bell’s assertions early in the second quarter.
Chincoteague briefly regained the lead at the outset of the second following a layup from Brendan Lafayette, but shortly thereafter Northampton began to deliver in all facets of the game. Washington hit a mid-range jumpshot, Scarborough climbed for a rebound and scored on the put back, and a thunderous block from Charles Tankard led to an uncontested layup from Coston. Kevon White provided the play of the half for the Yellow jackets with a tremendous block on the defensive end. White was rewarded in transition with a layup, giving his team a 10-point lead and forcing a Pony timeout.
Scarborough capped a personally strong second quarter with a pair of layups as the half drew to a close. Bell’s words undeniably led to the Yellow Jackets opening a 12-point lead at the break.
The teams competed with great tenacity out of the break. Scarborough’s play continued to impress, and Coston began to tally points in great numbers, with 9 in the third quarter, en route to a game high 21.
There was no quit in the Ponies, and Ayden Leonard, who spent much of the first half in foul trouble, exemplified the fight. Leonard chased every loose ball in his vicinity, and along with King, provided a dual threat for the Ponies to help offset the gains by Scarborough and Coston. Like Coston, King scored 9 in the quarter for the Ponies.
Late in the quarter, a diving save from Chincoteague’s Camron Davis kept a possession alive for his team, a play which ultimately ended with Leonard finding King for a layup, and the Ponies climbing to within 8 of the lead. Coston, however, stretched the lead back to 10 as the quarter ended, playing a two-man game with Scarborough.
Northampton spent much of the early part of the fourth quarter resting Coston and Scarborough, and for a time they did not relinquish any part of their lead; in fact they increased it some. White fed Tankard for a turn-around jumper, Quincy Washington then made a great bounce pass to Tankard for a layup, and Washington scored back-to-back shots for Northampton.
The Ponies remained aggressive, as Leonard fought hard for a couple of buckets in the paint, but Northampton’s depth really was on full display. Robinson-Taylor played an outstanding game outside of the stat sheet, plugging the middle on defense for the Yellow Jackets, and passing the ball with great vision in the fourth quarter.
Chincoteague’s resolve wouldn’t rest. Coston and Scarborough re-entered the game with 3:22 to go after a pair of 3-point plays from Pitts brought the Ponies to within 10. At that point Coston and Scarborough became great distributors of the basketball to one another and to teammates, Braden Justice and Shaikem Anderson, to help pull out the victory.
Bell was especially impressed by how his team responded after the slow start.
“They actually stepped up and started moving the ball around,” said Bell.
Everyone contributed for Northampton, as was Bell’s intention, as the season draws nearer to the playoffs and experience becomes a premium.
“We tried to play everybody, I feel very strong moving forward,” Bell said.
Coston’s 21 was complemented by Scarborough with 18, and Washington with 13.
The play of the Ponies too has been much better down the stretch. Chincoteague has been thoroughly competitive in losses to strong competition, and Johnson is pleased with the effort, saying it’s indicative of what is coming out of practices.
“We played hard, we fought in chipping away at the lead, everyday they’re still working hard at practice,” Johnson said.
Chincoteague ended the game with four in double figures, led by Leonard with 15, King with 14, Clark with 12, and Pitts with 11.
The win moved Northampton’s record to 11-6, 4-2 in league play. With the loss, Chincoteague fell to 4-8 overall, 0-6 in league play.