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Chowan defeats Allen

MURFREESBORO – Last Saturday was a good day for the Chowan men’s basketball team to celebrate Groundhog Day without the &uot;Groundhog Day&uot; effect.

&uot;Groundhog Day&uot; is the Bill Murray comedy movie where he relives the same day over and over again.  February 2 is the day when if the groundhog saw his shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter.

If I haven’t lost you yet, the parallel here was that despite some great individual and team play in several games this season, the Hawks wouldcome up short in the win column: out-rebounding opponents, fewer turnovers, multiple players scoring in double-figures to name but a few of the superlatives that just hadn’t always worked out always to the Hawks’ benefit in getting a victory.

But Punxatawney Phil – as the woodchuck’s sometimes called – could retreat back in his hog-hole following Chowan’s 83-79 win over Allen University at the Helms Center. A win that moved the Hawks within three games of .500 on the season at 9-12, and their second win in their last three games. 

&uot;You’re gonna do that with a young team,&uot; chuckled sixth-year head coach Jim Tribbett after the win. &uot;You can look at the series of things that happened today and say it’s still happening.&uot;

Tribbett may’ve been referring to junior guard Chris Kenon – 24-of-26 on the season in free-throw shooting – missing two charity tosses in a row in the final seconds. 

&uot;He hadn’t missed but twice in three months, and here late in the game he misses two in about one second,&uot; the coach said. 

Aaron Scott led four Hawks in double-figures with 20 points off the bench, while Raul Tutelea added 15 and seven rebounds, with Jaleel Nelson contributing 10 points and five assists; and a dozen for senior Montino Williams – who recorded his first double-figure game of the season.

&uot;His knee’s a lot healthier,&uot; added Tribbett, &uot;and he’s been working a lot harder. Players usually in the twilight of their (college) career’s are usually scratching and clawing and giving you everything they’ve got, and that’s the way a senior’s supposed to play.&uot;

The Hawks did a lot of their scratching and clawing on the backboards, accounting for their out-rebounding the Yellow Jackets, 42-25, with forward Layth Mansour collecting the majority of those caroms with 13 rebounds. Chowan was also able to convert those bounces into points on their offensive end with 24 second-chance points.

While Chowan appeared to have the dagger poised for a quick kill in the first half, the Yellow Jackets hung in against the Hawks; never trailing by more than five until less than six minutes remained and Chowan went on an 8-6 run to push out to a seven-point lead at halftime, 39-32 on 43 percent shooting.

Allen was just as scrappy opening the second half as Allen’s Byron Littlejohn fired in three straight field goals, the last one a three-pointer that cut Chowan’s lead to one, 51-50, five and a half minutes into the half. 

After a Williams jump shot, Littlejohn buried another trey to tie the game at 53-all.  After hanging close for the next several minutes, Littlejohn, who led all scorers with 22 points, fired in another three to make it a two-point game at 61-59.

But that’s when Chowan got very active in their zone, went on a 13-3 run keyed by nine points from Scott with his final field goal being a pull-up jumper at the top of the key, and seized command. 

Their box-and-one and triangle-and-two limited looks from the Yellow Jackets and Mansour and Tutelea collected 20 rebounds between them during that span.  Nursing a fourteen point lead, 78-64, Allen made their final run of the afternoon with the Hawks spotty at the free throw line, but the Jackets were in too steep a hole to climb out of and the comeback fell short by the final four-point margin.

&uot;We’ve been pushing defense a lot in practice,&uot; said Williams afterward, &uot;because in a lot of games we play a good first half but come out flat in the second half and mainly it’s been because of our defense.  We need play like this to make that push into the post-season.&uot;

&uot;They shoot three’s and play real scrappy defense,&uot; added Scott, &uot; and that’s how they stick around.  But both times (including an 80-63 win in Columbia in January) we were able to come away with the win.&uot;

&uot;It’s a good way to start February,&uot; concluded Tribbett, &uot;with our ninth win.&uot;

&uot;I always say number one, number-10, and number-20 are always the hardest ones to win.&uot;

Chowan gets four shots at win number-10 – or more – as they start a four game road swing, beginning Thursday night with a return match against Newport News Apprentice. 

They won’t return to the Helms Center until February 23 when they play their final home game of the regular season against Virginia Union.