POWHATAN - Powhatan High School senior L.J. Alston knocked down four 3-pointers and poured in 23 points total, but experience played a role in Powhatan's 79-62 setback to Midlothian on Wednesday.
"A lot of those guys have been playing varsity for three years and learning the same system for three years," Powhatan head coach Ryan Marable said of Midlothian's players. "Really all I cared about tonight was our effort and our enthusiasm, which - that's been lacking in the last three games - and we got there tonight, but then, when it came time to make basketball plays...inexperience kind of reared its ugly head, and against a team like that who is really dedicated to the system...if one person doesn't do their job, then they're going to find that person and they're going to make you pay.
"That happened a lot in a lot of possessions, and it just comes with experience, comes with communication and being able to not take plays off."
Alston's junior Matthew Hempfield joined Alston in netting double-digits as he scored 11 points. Midlothian was led by Carter Lovasz, who totaled 12 points in the first quarter alone, hit four 3's and made 20 points overall.
Despite the loss, Powhatan showed strong pressure at times in Wednesday's game, applying the full-court press and forcing some mistakes and turnovers. In the third quarter, senior Aaron Nash grabbed a loose ball that was freed from Midlothian's possession by pressure from Nash's teammate Ethan Dowdy, and Brylan Rather put the exclamation mark on Powhatan's possession by hitting the layup off of a spin move down low. In the same quarter, senior JaySun Carroll reached skyward and got his hand on a ball put into motion by Midlothian and deflected it into the upwards-reaching arms of Alston. The ball from there went to Hempfield, who flipped the layup through the hoop while dashing through the lane and then crashing to the ground, but not before drawing the foul to give himself the and-one try from the free-throw line.
"We want to just apply constant pressure and I think that's more fun to coach and it's more fun to play," Marable said. "You can make more mistakes that way and hopefully cause more mistakes that way for the other team. We've just got to get better at, when we get turnover or get a stop, then we really take care of the ball on the other end" and make the other team pay when they make mistakes.
Powhatan (1-4) has had a tough stretch since its narrow loss to Clover Hill last Friday, but for Marable and the team, there were still pros to take away from the two games prior to Wednesday. In Saturday's 81-47 defeat to L.C. Bird, Powhatan outscored the Skyhawks 13-12 in the third quarter, and Marable noted that the Skyhawks "don't let up - they don't stop playing." The Indians were also winning Monday's game 23-22 against Monacan before the Chiefs overtook them 64-46.
"Those are those little wins that a young program wants," Marable said. "Hopefully the guys can take that and use that as motivation like, 'Hey, we can hang with anybody...as long as our energy and our effort is there.
"But, just like in anything in life, and especially with these young kids, nobody's going to be successful if they don't have sustained effort," Marable said. "You can't just bring effort when you want to. It has to be an every-day, every-play thing, and unfortunately we don't have that mentality right now, but hopefully we get it soon. I'm not going to let them take plays off and not demand that sustained effort, because I'd be letting them down as kids and as players if I just let them be okay with that. I demand that, and hopefully it'll rub off in their lives after basketball, but hopefully it'll pay dividends as we continue with our season."
Rather knocked down four 3's and scored 17 points in Monday's game versus Monacan, and Alston hit three 3's and totaled 13 points. Facing Bird on Saturday, Hempfield knocked down four 3's and totaled 20 points and Rather hit three 3's and chipped in 14 points.
Powhatan will play at James River on Friday at 7:15 p.m.