HAMPTON — Friday night's one-point loss at Menchville wasn't easy to digest. And there was a faction of Hampton's players who feared their quest of the Peninsula District championship was over.
Until assistant coach Eric Brown informed them otherwise the following morning before practice.
Given new life and a chance for redemption, the Crabbers played maybe their best game of the season in a 73-69 win at Kecoughtan on Tuesday night. And with it, the district race is tied up again going into the final night of the regular season.
"It was a heart-breaker the way we lost to Menchville, and a lot of the guys didn't know we were still in it," Brown said. "We sat them down and told them, look, we still have a chance to win the championship. We just have to do our part Tuesday.
"They came out and practiced hard on Saturday and again on Monday. And everyone came out ready tonight."
The Crabbers (17-4, 14-3) and Warriors (15-6, 14-3) each have tough assignments in Thursday night's finales. Hampton is home to Phoebus, which it beat last month on the road. Kecoughtan is home to Menchville, to which it lost on the road last month.
The Crabbers looked at Tuesday night's game as a must-win, and it showed. As it turned out, Hampton led from the moment Cameron Perry hit a pull-up jumper to make it 11-10 with 3:28 left in the first quarter. The Crabbers went ahead 50-39 on Anthony Barber's breath-taking baseline-to-baseline drive with 4:07 to go in the third.
But Kecoughtan wasn't going to fold, not with a chance to clinch its first district title since 1992. With a barrage of 3-pointers, the Warriors cut it to 65-64 on Greg Alexander's 20-footer with 3:03 remaining in the game.
Then came Hampton's biggest hoop of the night. Jordan Baker drove from the right wing and banked it in over Kecoughtan's Rodney Bullock. It pushed the lead back to three and gave Hampton its first basket in almost four minutes.
Bullock was then called for a charge, and Sammie Royal's layup made it 69-64 with 58 seconds left. Hampton held on from there.
"This is the best we've played all year," said Barber, who scored 24 points. "This was a must. Me and Jordan were talking all day about how we had to win this one.
"It gives us a boost, but we can't get too big-headed. Phoebus is a good team, too. We're going to come out the way we did tonight and play the same way."
Baker, whose last-second foul led to Menchville's game-winning free throw Friday night, scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
"That Menchville game, I took that on myself," he said. "The fourth quarter, they had a weaker defender on me and I took advantage of it. I had the open lane, the whole right side was open, so I was just attacking strong and finishing."
HAMPTON 73, KECOUGHTAN 69
HAMPTON (17-4, 14-3): Baker 11, Moore 7, Barber 24, Joyner 3, R. Johnson 3, C. Perry 10, T. Perry 4, Royal 11. Totals: 30 9-19 73.
KECOUGHTAN (15-6, 14-3): Motley 11, Saunders 6, Bullock 20, Fortune 9, Haskett 2, Alexander 10, Poe 9, Shaw 2. Totals: 23 15-19 69.
3-point goals: Hampton 4 (Moore, Joyner, R. Johnson, Baker), Kecoughtan 8 (Fortune, Bullock 2, Saunders 2, Alexander 2, Motley).
Hampton girls 40, Kecoughtan 34
The Crabbers scored the game's first 10 points and kept the Warriors at arm's length the rest of the way for their fifth straight win.
Hampton (15-6, 14-3) already had clinched second place and will open in the district tournament against No. 7 Heritage. Kecoughtan (14-7, 11-6) dropped from sole possession of third place into a three-way tie with Bethel and Warwick.
HAMPTON (15-6, 14-3): Williams 2, Saunders 6, Bell 9, Berger 6, Pearson 6, Brown 5, Sayle 6. Totals: 12 14-25 40.
KECOUGHTAN (14-7, 11-6): Townes 9, Batten 2, Morris 2, Romero 11, Clifton 1, Gray 9. Totals: 11 12-20 34.
3-point goals: Hampton 2 (Bell, Saunders).Copyright © 2015, CT Now