BY JOHN DUBOIS
Ranked No. 1 in the final regular season NJCAA Division II national poll and seeded third coming into the national tournament the Louisburg Hurricanes had high expectations for their fourth consecutive trip to Danville, but an opening game loss to Penn Valley sent the Hurricanes unexpectedly to the consolation bracket.
Led by 21 points from Paul Stone, the Hurricanes bounced back and became the first team at the tournament to hit the century mark with a 100-86 win over the Essex County Wolverines.
Louisburg had 10 players score at least with four points with Antonio Robinson and Kevin Williams adding 13 points each, while Tyquan Roberts chipped in with 11 points.
“It wasn’t hard for us to regroup after the loss,” Stone, a 6-foot-6 inch sophomore from Danville, Va. said. “We knew we needed to come together and we played well today. We were able to knock down our free throws down the stretch and play at the fast pace that we like. We aren’t satisfied that we won’t have the chance to play for the national title, but we are going to continue to work hard for the rest of the tournament.”
The Hurricanes have a rich athletic history and are the oldest two year college in the country.
“A consolation bracket game is a character and pride game,” said Louisburg coach Mark Vanderslice. “We regrouped well and played a great game. We play 11 guys and I think at some point this season all of them have scored in double figures.
“We play a fast-paced game, get up and down the court, and scoring 100 points, you would expect to see a lot of guys score. We were 31-of-40 from the foul line after shooting 55 percent in the loss. Sometimes you see teams fold up in consolation games. I’m proud of the way our guys played.”
The Wolverines were led by a game and as of game 13, a tournament-high 33 points from sophomore Vincent Walls. Neville Joseph added 22 points and Ederson Exume chipped in with 10 points. Essex County ends its season with a record of 25-8.
“They didn’t give us a window of opportunity to get back into the game,” said Essex County coach Corey Lowery. “We didn’t make our free throws (15-of-25) and that is unusual for us. We kept fighting today and we had prepared to play Louisburg, but we didn’t expect to see them in the consolation bracket.
“The way we broke the game down for our guys was that today was like an NIT game. Everybody comes here wanting to be the champion, but when the ball is in the air and bouncing you play hard. It’s about character and pride, and our kids represented our school the right way today.”
The Hurricanes jumped out to a 10-2 lead five minutes into the game, but the Wolverines rallied to close the deficit to 20-19. Louisburg would close out the half on a 23-6 run and took a 42-25 lead into halftime.
“We were also up early in the first game though,” Vanderslice said. “We practice situations a lot, and one that we focus on is the last four minutes of the first half.”
Louisburg led 74-54 following an emphatic dunk from Terance Christian with seven minutes to go, but the Wolverines would mount one last run capped by a basket from Walls which cut the lead to 84-77 with just over two minutes to go. The Hurricanes would close out the game on a 16-9 run.
“It’s always nice to be able to come back and get a win,” Vanderslice said. “We have a lot of sophomores who were battled tested here last year when we finished fifth, and we all had a lot of pride at stake. Regardless of what game you are playing you always play with pride, and we showed a lot of pride today.”
The Hurricanes return to action at 1 p.m. today against Howard Community College.