News: Quantico overcomes struggles to defeat Ft. Lee in WAMAC action
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
QUANTICO, Va. - The Quantico Warriors men’s varsity basketball team traveled 100 miles south to Ft. Lee, Va., to play the Ft. Lee Travelers in their third game of the Washington Area Military Athletic Conference season on Jan. 8. Quantico won the game 83-80.
The Warriors are the two-time defending champions of the conference and have begun this season with a bang, winning their first two games by 29 and 30 points respectively. However, there would be no such blowout against the Travelers as a tough opponent and a three week holiday break between games conspired against Quantico.
“Ft. Lee always plays us tough no matter where we are playing at,” said James Jones, the head coach of the Warriors. “They were missing a few key guys as we were, as well. I knew we would be rusty coming back off the break. However, our defense was very solid just as it has been all season. That ability to lock down on critical possessions was key.”
The defense carried the day for Quantico and kept them in the game during a very rough first half in which the Travelers outhustled them, outrebounded them and took a 41-39 lead into halftime. The Warriors had plenty of opportunities to seize control of the game early, but missed several easy, point blank layups in transition. The players didn’t let those misses discourage them, though.
“It does give you some confidence when you get shots like that but it’s heartbreaking when you miss them,” said Brandon Mitchell, the starting point guard for the team. “But at least you know that, eventually, those shots will start to fall.”
In the second half they began to drop. Willie Nathan, the other starting guard for the team, keyed the offense early with two back-to-back three pointers. Then the defense began to take over as Mitchell and Nathan put heavy pressure on the other team’s ball handlers.
“Our goal with the pressure is to wind the shot clock down and force the other team to rush on offense,” said Mitchell.
Sensing the opportunity to seize the momentum of the game, Jones reached out to one of his most experienced players, Cedric Jordan, to take over the role of point guard and run the offense.
“Jordan is a three-year veteran of our team and the former starter at point guard,” said Jones. “He has been away from the team due to injuries. Now that he has returned we are slowly working him back into the rotation. He brings an experienced and steady hand to the point guard position.”
With all three guards pressuring the Travelers on one end of the court and Jordan keeping the offense running smoothly, the Warriors opened their largest lead of the game, going up 61-54.
“Everybody has their role on the team,” Jordan said. “We were kind of helter skelter for a little while, so Coach brought me in to settle them down and run a couple plays. Then he can bring the starters back in to do what they usually do.”
However, it would not last as Ft. Lee would not go away that easily. They took advantage of more defensive miscues by the Warriors to chip away at the lead, pulling within two or three points and staying there down the stretch. But Quantico was still in control, a sign of a seasoned, confident team.
“Close games like this build character,” said Jones. “Great teams win those types of games, where average teams win some and lose some. In order to be great, you must be able to win close games. [This was a] good confidence builder for our team.”
The win kept Quantico atop the standings and undefeated, but a perfect season is not the definitive goal for these Warriors.
“Being 3-0, that is great but we continue to take our season one game at a time,” Jones said. “I always want our guys focusing on the next opponent and not look to far down the road. Our ultimate goal is to become the first team to win three consecutive WAMAC championships.”
Quantico’s next game is 10 a.m., Saturday at the 8th annual Martin Luther King tournament hosted at Naval Support Activity Bethesda.