Gallery: Vanguard races by Belleview with balanced attack led by Harrell

Home » News
Posted December 22, 2022 | By Allen Barney/allen@ocalagazette.com
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/bruce@Ocalagazette.com

The Vanguard Knights boys basketball team improved to 6-3 on the season after beating the Belleview Rattlers (3-8) 66-50 on Thursday night.

Vanguard, coming off back-to-back wins, opened the game with points from Jewmaris Jones and Isaiah Bethea. Belleview would answer back with five unanswered points as Cori Johnson (23 points, three assists and two steals) drained a three-pointer from the right corner and followed up with a steal and layup on the ensuing possession for Vanguard.

Junior point guard D’Mareon Manning drilled a three-pointer from the left wing to give Vanguard a 7-5 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter. Vanguard would finish the opening stanza on a 14-4 run aided by points from Bethea, Manning, Cameron Powell, Jemiah Gallion and Rickey Harrell.

With a 21-9 lead, Vanguard continued their hot streak to start the second quarter as Javon Norman, Lamont Snyder and Stefon Colbert all made buckets within the first two minutes of the period.

With his team trailing 27-9, Belleview head coach Jason Hasson called a timeout with five minutes left before halftime. Hasson decided to change the strategy and employ a press defense.

“We changed to a smaller lineup so we could be quicker with the press, and it really changed the momentum.” Hasson said.

The decision by Hasson paid off as Belleview went on a 16-8 run in the last five minutes of the first half. During the run, Johnson led the way with seven points while Antoine Armbrister, Jadiel Jimenez and Brandon Woode pitched in with a combined nine points.

Belleview’s run cut Vanguard’s lead to 31-25 at halftime. Coming out of the break, Cori Johnson sank a pair of free throws to pull the deficit to four points.

Bethea and Jones hit layups on consecutive possessions to bump Vanguard’s lead to eight.

Belleview had an opportunity to make it a three-point game but Vanguard took advantage after a missed three-point attempt from Jimenez and the Knights knocked down their own three courtesy of Gallion.

Johnson would hit a pair of free throws to bring the score to 42-33 in Vanguard’s favor with two minutes left in the third quarter.

The final 90 seconds of the period went by at a frenetic pace as the two teams combined for 17 points. Stepping up for Vanguard was Harrell as he scored eight points in the last minute and change of the third quarter.

“I just had to keep my team on top by working around the basket and be a big-time athlete when the time calls for it.” Harrell said.

Harrell’s scoring prowess gave Vanguard a 53-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Vanguard continued to be aggressive on offense to start the final period as Bethea picked up his own rebound and secured an easy layup.

Armbrister answered with a slick finger-roll off a gorgeous bounce pass from Johnson to cut the deficit to 14. Harrell would go on to score six consecutive points for Vanguard to give them a 16-point lead with four minutes left in the game.

Belleview kept fighting as Johnson scored five points in a two-minute span but Vanguard’s balanced offensive attack and feisty half-court defense snuffed out the final rally attempt for Belleview to pull off a 66-50 win.

Vanguard had 10 different players score at least two points in the game and head coach Todd Davis was pleased with the effort and feels his offense can score from anywhere on the court.

Harrell led the team with 20 points and eight rebounds, Bethea was a force in the paint with 10 points and seven rebounds. Cameron Powell added nine points of his own and Jewmaris Jones scored eight.

“Each coach wants the luxury of not having to depend on the same guy every night. It’s great for me and I love coaching guys that can score in different ways. I call it a triple threat, they can score from three-point, mid-range and inside.” Davis said.

On the other side of the coin, Belleview had to fight all night to stay in the game and did so with three starters out with injury. Hasson spoke with optimism when talking about the younger players battling through adversity and not giving up when falling behind by double-digit points.

“I’m proud of our guys, we had guys that hadn’t got a lot of minutes this year and they came in and stepped up. It got away from us a little in the first half but our guys decided they weren’t going to let it get out of hand and they fought back.” Hasson said.

One of the players on Belleview who had a solid performance was Armbrister, the senior forward scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and notched three blocks.

“He (Bethea) had me on size so I had to figure out ways to get around him by using angles or jumping in front of him to get a block.” Armbrister said.

Armbrister spoke with optimism about his team’s chances once they come back from Christmas break as they will look to right the ship after a 3-8 start to the season.

“We can’t keep starting games slow and then decide to turn up. We just have to get out there and go from the start.” he said.

Vanguard is on a hot run with a three-game win streak and the all-important Kingdom of the Sun Tournament at their home court next week. Davis is happy with where the team is at and feels confident about their chances.