By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- There was no rhythm, there was no flow. Neither the Shenandoah Hornets nor the Methodist Monarchs could establish any sort of control in their USA South clash Sunday afternoon.
To some extent, it was complete and utter chaos.
Both teams heaved up shots from wherever they pleased, and more often than not, those shots fell. Methodist shot precisely 50 percent from the 3-point arc, on 28 attempts, while Shenandoah scored more points than it had in 115 games.
But in a game during which runs were rare and defense was nonexistent, it was Shenandoah, thanks to a mild second-half spree, which edged out Methodist, 113-98.
This game was only the fifth in SU coach Rob Harris' 10-year tenure in which the Hornets have scored 100 points; their 63.8 percent shooting percentage is a school record.
The 98 points Shenandoah (7-12, 4-2 USA South) gave up is also a season-high.
"We still we gave up 49 points in two halves," Harris said. "As a coaching staff, I think we're sitting here trying to scratch our heads to figure out what we need to do.
"...We need to do some different things and go back to the drawing board and make sure our guys understand what we're looking for as far as perimeter defense."
Early in the first half, Methodist's (0-17, 0-5 USA South) 3-point shooting ballooned to 75 percent, largely behind a 6-for-10 performance by Ross Diachenko. Though the Monarchs' deep-shooting eventually leveled out, Diachenko's four 3-pointers through the first 12 minutes helped Methodist establish a 33-25 lead.
Not until Shenandoah senior Wayne Washington, who scored a team-high 29 points, led a 12-0 run midway through the second half did Shenandoah establish control over the game.
After Kevin Kline and Brandon Bryan both hit buckets for Shenandoah, Washington scored on three consecutive Hornet possessions to put SU up 69-57, ending a tit-for-tat battle which saw 10 different lead changes and 10 ties.
Washington capped his seven-point spree with a twisting, coiling up-and-under layup. He capped his Sunday performance with a backboard-pounding block on Methodist guard Devonne Blackshear, followed by another score seconds later.
"I didn't feel like I had to shoulder the load, [I just took] the shots that were there, I didn't feel like I was forcing anything," said Washington, who paused, then chuckled. "Maybe in the second half, but I was just trying to stay aggressive because we've got other guys that can score the ball, too."
Indeed, Shenandoah saw five players score in double-digits: Washington, Kline (25 points), Bryan (20), Kenny Robertson (12), and Chris Schrader (11). But what was perhaps most impressive for Harris and the Hornets was how well they performed at the free-throw line.
Coming off an 11-for-28 performance in a loss to Greensboro on Saturday, Shenandoah went to the line an astounding 43 times Sunday, converting 31 times.
And the Hornets, as it turned out, needed most every one.
"We knew coming in that Methodist isn't really known to play defense, especially this year, but we didn't play defense at all either tonight," Kline said. "I felt like we moved the ball real well, found our shooters and they knocked them down tonight."
Shenandoah travels to Christopher Newport on Wednesday to start the back end of their USA South schedule. With both teams tied for second in the conference, Wednesday's game has something of an added importance for Shenandoah.
"Every game is important, especially when you win," Harris said. "I just told our guys, when you win, every game becomes more magnified. ... I think they understand what's in front of them and we're gonna do our very best."