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Fast start sparks Monroe

Fast start sparks Monroe

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It wasn’t complicated. William Monroe started extremely fast and Buckingham County stumbled out of the gate and never got back in the race.

With five players in double figures, an aerial assault from behind the arc and a particularly sterling defensive effort early on, the Dragons rolled to a 73-50 victory over the Knights to earn a shot at Dan River in Amherst Thursday night in the Region B semifinals.

William Monroe's Austin Batten hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of a long-distance assault by the Dragons.

“We’re just happy to get that chance,” said William Monroe coach Mike Maynard.

His squad got that opportunity largely with a 14-0 run to open the game that made a solid Buckingham team look nearly helpless in the early going.

“They came out and missed some shots in the beginning and that kind of set them low not having those shots fall,” said Monroe’s Jordan Gentry who had 15 total points on five 3-pointers.

Gentry drew the unenviable task of trying to contain Buckingham’s Tarian Ayres, the Knights dynamic leading scorer. Maynard, who never shies away from drastically altering his defensive scheme to give his team a shot at winning, employed a triangle-and-two on Ayres and Cam Johnson with Gentry fronting Ayres. Gentry, with the help of his teammates in the lane, held Ayres scoreless for the first quarter.

“I thought we did a really good job on the Johnson kid, Austin and Gary guarded him,” Maynard said. “Ayres is a tough matchup, he’s a very good basketball player — he’s strong. He’s the only one that really got going and we kept the other guys in check.”

Ayres got into gear after the opening frame and finished with 17 points in the final three quarters, but the damage was done. Johnson and point guard L.A. Briley combined for just seven points while Kyree Koonce and Drequan Scott had eight and 11 respectively.

It didn’t help the Knights that seemingly every time Ayres broke through the defense for a bucket in the lane, Monroe hit a big 3-pointer.

“Boy, they really knocked down some shots,” said Buckingham coach Russ Gowin. “We made a couple of little runs and got it to 11 but we couldn’t maintain it. They would drain a three…those little guards really shot the ball super for them tonight.”

Gentry unleashed his five throughout the course of the game, but he wasn’t the only one. Gary Morris and Austin Batten also got hot from the 3-point line with Morris hitting three while Batten finished with a pair. Those two guards each finished with 12 points while Markel Williams and Markel Faulkner each had 10 on the night to round out the five players in double figures.

Stacy White’s play also stood out. White had just four points but drew significant praise from Gentry for his efforts on the boards and in transition.

“In practice last week he’s been unbelievable, 100 miles an hour up and down the court,” Gentry said. “If you practice like that you’re going to play like that.”

The Dragons even shot well at the free throw line, going 11 for 16 at the charity stripe.

Monore, the Region B, Division 2 tournament’s fourth seed will take on No. 1-seeded Dan River Thursday at Amherst High. Dan River is one of the state’s most highly-regarded Group A squads. Buckingham’s loss ends a storied career for Tarian Ayres and L.A. Briley. The tandem has been a fixture for three years on squads that until Tuesday night had never lost two games in a row during a season.

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