Colonels bounce back with big win at home over FUMA

Massanutten Military Academy's Isaiah Salter collides with Fork Union's James Taylor as Taylor tries to regain possession on a steal attempt during first half action Thursday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Massanutten Military Academy’s postgraduate boys basketball team suffered just its second loss of the season with a 1-point setback to Miller School last weekend. The Colonels returned home on Thursday night and bounced back with a big win that should certainly bolster their postseason resume.

MMA held off Fork Union Military Academy for an 86-70 victory in a matchup of teams ranked in Prep Circuit’s top 10, making good on head coach Chad Myers’ emphasis of controlling its home court. More importantly, the Colonels (20-2) now hold victories over Hargrave and FUMA, fellow state powerhouses that regularly contend for spots in the annual National Prep Showcase at season’s end.

“It was really big just to bounce back, make sure our team’s locked in,” MMA point guard Rasir Bolton said following the win. “The national tournament’s coming up soon, so we’re always playing for seeding and things like that. So it was good to bounce back.”

That the Colonels were able to do so while playing at less than full strength is an encouraging sign for Myers. MMA played the entire contest without starter Miles James, Bolton came up hobbled and sat out the final four minutes and Tyrese Martin – though he finished with a team-high 23 points, including 18 in the second half – was stuck on the bench for extended stretches while in foul trouble.

Terrence Whitfield, whom Myers said had one of his best games of the season against Miller School, hit 5 3-pointers and finished with 19 points and six rebounds while starting in James’ absence. Gus Okafor scored 8 points off the bench and Arneet Singh gave the Colonels good minutes in the first half.

MMA's Gus Okafor goes up under the basket to score against Fork Union's JP Corser during first half action Thursday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We’re just so much deeper this year,” Myers said. “We’ve got a lot of guys, it’s just keeping them all engaged and hungry and realize it could be somebody different every night.”

MMA didn’t light up the scoreboard offensively – the Colonels shot just 35.4 percent from the floor in the win – but Myers said Thursday’s game was the best the Colonels have moved the ball side-to-side to create open looks and driving lanes all season.

The Colonels made up for the tough-luck shooting night by limiting FUMA to 38.1 percent from the field, dominating the glass – Mahamadou Diawara (11 points) and Mekhi Long each had 13 rebounds as MMA held a 52-32 advantage – and hitting 31 of 36 free throws (86 percent). MMA made its last 14 free throws over the final two minutes to maintain at least a 9-point lead during that stretch.

Defensively, MMA survived an early scoring outburst from VCU commit KeShawn Curry, who scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the game’s first five minutes, and limited FUMA to just 4 points over the final 5:31 of the first half to take a 43-28 lead into halftime.

The Blue Devils finished the game 8-for-29 from 3-point range and hit only 4 of 16 shots from deep in the first half.

MMA's Tyrese Martin looks to pass as he goes airborne against Fork Union's Luke Brenegan during second half action Thursday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They’ve got a good team and they play different and they’re disciplined,” Myers said, “so for us to be able to play a different style and still win was huge.”

FUMA, who didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half, began attacking the basket in the second half and made 14 of 16 free throws over the final 20 minutes. The Blue Devils cut MMA’s lead to 4 points with seven minutes to play, but the Colonels pushed the lead back out to 9 points over the next four minutes before FUMA began fouling.

“I thought in the second half we weren’t terrible defensively, we just fouled too much,” Myers said.

“The hard thing for us is that we play in different places all the time and obviously games are called different everywhere you’re at. I thought the (referees) did a really good job tonight but they called it probably like they’re supposed to, like if we put our hands on them they called it. So we’ve gotta adjust and be able to show our hands and learn how to guard. … Sometimes we had them in a bad spot and just slapped down, stuff like that.”

MMA returns to action Saturday against D.C. Premier in Washington, D.C.

Fork Union's Andrew Zeigler climbs the back of MMA's Mahamadou Diawara as he dunks the ball during second half action Thursday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We’ve probably played one of the toughest schedules in the country, so just to be 20-2 right now, (it’s) looking pretty good,” Bolton said. “Going now into the downhill part of the season it’s just about getting better and keep winning.”

MMA's Mekhi Long skies for a jam during first half action Thursday night against Fork Union Military Academy in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Massanutten Military Academy's Chad Myers greets Isiah Salter as he runs off the court during a time out Thursday in the game against Fork Union Military Academy. Rich Cooley/Daily

MMA's Gus Okafor performs a slam dunk during first half action Thursday night against Fork Union Military Academy in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

MMA's Tyrese Martin is fouled by Fork Union's LJ Bryan, left, as he goes up to score during their Thursday night contest in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily