Before the match-up even came about, the L.C. Bird Skyhawks boy’s basketball team had this date circled on their calendar- a potential match-up with Petersburg in the regional semi-finals. The way things shook out, the Skyhawks got their shot and in a nip and tuck affair they would fall just short, losing to the Crimson Wave 71-66.
“Getting off to that slow start didn’t help us,” said Bird head coach Troy Manns. “I have to commend the kids for fighting hard and coming back when we were down- it was a back and forth game.”
Petersburg came out of the gates strong as Bird had some trouble finding an offensive rhythm. Heavy doses of Petersburg standouts Frank Mason and Marcus Hoosier would be the theme for the game as the two stars combined twelve points in the first quarter and 55 for the game. Petersburg held a 16-7 lead after the first quarter.
Bird would answer, getting the ball inside and capitalizing from the free throw line, a skill that’s become a trademark for the Skyhawks. Bird trailed 25-24 at the half.
The Skyhawks continued that momentum and built as much as a six point lead in the third quarter- sparked by the play of freshman Kenny Williams.
“Kenny [Williams] came in and sparked us offensively,” said Manns. “He came in and drove the ball, and hit his foul shots.”
In the fourth, a bucket by Christian Smith gave Bird a brief lead at 53-52. That lead would change several times down the stretch. Bird’s last lead of the game came on a Reddick triple that fell inside of a minute giving them the lead at 64-62. Petersburg’s Hoosier answered immediately with a three of his own. After another bucket and one by Hoosier, the Skyhawks were forced to foul. Mason also hit several key fourth quarter shots.
“Seems like every time we got the lead Mason would hit a shot,” said Manns. “That’s what good players do.”
Bird was led by Robert Johnson who scored 15 points in limited minutes due to foul trouble and fouling out in the fourth quarter. The Skyhawks got a strong contribution also from Williams, who finished the game with 13 points. Smith added ten points and six rebounds. Junior Bryce Harman was a force on defense- registering four blocks. For Petersburg, Mason finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds and Hoosier added 24 points and 11 rebounds. Petersburg head coach Rick Hite wasn’t surprised by the effort Bird gave, despite the losing effort.
“L.C. responded the way I expected them to, and came back each time,” said Hite. “They are the #1 seed for a reason- they have one of the best players in the state [Robert Johnson] and the best coach in the state [Manns],” he continued. “Bird deserved to win this as much as we did.”
The Skyhawks finished their season short of last year’s state final appearance, but still had a great overall season finishing at 23-4 and bringing home the regular season Dominion District title with a perfect 16-0 record. They will return a few key contributors in Johnson, Harman and Williams, but will graduate Smith and Harvey Freeman, who Hite called “The most underrated point guard in the region.” Basketball season is over here at the Village News. Stay tuned for our coverage of spring sports. For updates for all sports, follow @josh_mathewsVN on twitter.