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Prep Boys Basketball: Devils are survivors

By STEVE FRANZELLO

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Battlefield District co-leader Culpeper enjoyed an 18-point victory over Courtland in the teams’ first meeting earlier this season.

But the second time around against any opponent, especially one as scrappy as the Cougars, can be a tougher assignment, and the visiting Blue Devils found that out on Friday night.

With veteran Henry Butler leading the way with a season-high 33 points, Culpeper (14–2 overall, 7–1 in the district) pulled out a hard-fought 87–83 victory in overtime and kept a share of the district lead with Chancellor.

The Chargers defeated King George 66–59 on Friday to keep pace. The two teams will meet at Culpeper on Tuesday in a showdown for the top spot.

That game nearly lost some of its luster thanks to a gutsy effort by the Cougars (8–8, 4–4), who staged two major comebacks, including a fourth-quarter rally to send the game into overtime.

Courtland trailed by 12 points in the second quarter, but went on a 31–18 scoring run to take a 44–42 lead at intermission. After falling behind by 12 points again in the third period, they stormed back and sent the game into overtime before the Blue Devils iced the win at the foul line.

“Teams are getting pumped up for us now and giving us their best shot,” said Blue Devils coach James Thompson. “We need to be able to embrace that fact and play with it.”

Butler scored 18 of his points in the first half, including 10 in the first quarter, when Culpeper used its athleticism to build a 24–13 lead and set the tone early.

Eleven of his points came at the free-throw line, where the Blue Devils converted 22 of 34 attempts. Nik Stewart made good on 10 of his 14 shots there to help fuel the win. He finished with 16 points, while Anthony Banks added 15 and 13 rebounds. Adrian Strother joined them in double figures with 12 points.

Stewart’s biggest shots came in the extra session, when he sank four free-throws in the closing seconds to put the game away.

Courtland showed it was a much-improved team since it’s last meeting with the Blue Devils, when they couldn’t maintain pace with Culpeper’s athleticism.

With sharp-shooting guard Kyle Talley setting the pace with five 3-point baskets, the Cougars answered the bell every time the Blue Devils appeared on the verge of pulling away.

Talley scored 23 points to lead a balanced attack that featured five players in double figures for Courtland, which had won three straight before Friday night.

Eric Washington, Wayne Hawkins and Sheldon White all contributed 13 points to the Cougars’ cause. Point guard Travis Mickens added 12 more. Washington also pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Courtland coach Montie McMorris. “We’ve been playing harder and we’ve been more aggressive on defense. We just need to tweak a few things.”

After falling behind by 11 points, Courtland used an 18–7 spurt in the second quarter to regain the lead before halftime.

But Butler and the Blue Devils picked up their scoring—and their intensity—and forged a 60–49 lead late in the third quarter and seemed to be in control again.

But the Cougars wouldn’t go away. Talley started another comeback with a nice drive off a fast break and then connected on a 3-pointer to tie the score at 67 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Reserve Terrell Robinson’s inside shot then put the Cougars back in front, and momentum appeared to have shifted their way.

Culpeper had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Stewart went to the line with 1.9 seconds left. But his shot bounced off the rim and Courtland’s Damion Washington hauled in the rebound as time expired.

The Blue Devils built a seven-point lead in the overtime (81–74) behind Stewart and Butler, but Courtland kept coming back.

White and Talley both drained shots from behind the 3-point arc to narrow the gap to two points, but Stewart’s free-throws with four seconds remaining ended the game.

“We’re not the kind of team that is going to beat other teams by 25 points,” said Thompson. “I didn’t expect to blow out Courtland the second time. They made adjustments and they were playing at home. It was a good test for us.”

After passing that test, the Blue Devils can now focus their attention on Tuesday’s big home game with Chancellor.

“It’s a big one for first place, and Chancellor should be favored since they’ve beaten us already,” said Thompson. “We’ll need to be ready.”

    Culpeper 24 18 20 12 13 — 87

    Courtland 13 31 11 19 9 — 83

    Scoring

    Culpeper (14–2, 7–1): Anthony Banks 15, Henry Butler 33, Bruce Mosley 6, Anthony Odham 0, Jeremy Robson 5, Nik Stewart 16, Adrian Strother 12. Totals: 31 22-34 87.

    Courtland (7–9,4–4): Wayne Hawkins 13, Travis Mickens 12, Terrell Robinson 8, Kyle Talley 23, Damion Washington 1, Eric Washington 13, Sheldon White 13. Totals: 34 5-11 83.

    Three-point goals: Culpeper 3 (B. Mosley 2, J. Robson). Courtland 10 (W. Hawkins, T. Mickens, K. Talley 5, S. White 3).

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440

sports@freelancestar.com

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