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No. 10 Patriots back in action at Richard Bland College

January 27, 2016

By: CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — It’s only been a week since the NJCAA, Division II No. 10 Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) men’s basketball defeated then No. 10 Louisburg College. However, it feels a lot longer thanks to Winter Storm Jonas, which forced a litany of scheduling changes and practice time shuffling.

The Patriots finally return to action at 7 p.m. tonight as they travel to Petersburg, Va. to take on Richard Bland College. The Statesmen are 5-3 in Region X, 6-1 at home and 9-9 overall. PHCC jumped up one spot in the latest NJCAA, Division II poll following the Louisburg win. It currently has the longest winning streak in the conference at five games and boasts a 14-2 overall record and a respectable 7-1 record in conference play.

Regardless of the numbers, Patriots coach Kenny Wade understands the nature of conference road games. Every game away from home in Region X can test the resolve of even the best teams and the Patriots have started to understand that this season. The Patriots swept their latest road trip Jan. 16-17 with wins over Lenoir and Pitt Community Colleges.

“I think the guys are ready to get back in action,” Wade said. “The biggest challenge is playing on (Richard Bland’s) court. (Coach Chuck Moore) knows me and I know him but I think our guys will be up for the challenge.”

Wade served as an assistant under Moore at PHCC before Moore traveled to Randolph Macon and then eventually to RBC in 2013 while Wade took over the Patriots program seven seasons ago. Both coaches know each other’s styles and tendencies very well, and Wade said it can be like coaching against yourself at times. The teams split both meetings last season, each winning on their home floor.

One of the biggest factors in tonight’s Region X matchup could be pace. Richard Bland plays an up-tempo style and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball as seen by its 63 field attempts per game. PHCC, too, can play quick, but as seen by its 71-62 win over Louisburg it can also slow down even the best offenses. Wade also said his team must rebound the way it did against the Hurricanes, securing 16 offensive rebounds in that game. The Statesmen hold a plus-12 advantage in rebounding average (43-31).

“The keys to victory is keeping them from hitting a lot of 3-pointers, play solid defense and rebound the ball,” Wade said.

Richard Bland hasn’t played since Jan. 20, as well, knocking off Pitt 83-80 at home. Jordan Griggs scored a game-high 20 points for the Statesmen to help match Pitt with four double-figure scorers. Griggs is one of four RBC scorers that averages double digits while forward Troy Gibson leads the pack with a 14.1 points per game average. Richard Bland averages just under 80 points per game and does a good job getting to the free-throw line with an average of 26 attempts a game. The one downfall for the Statesmen this season, however, has been ball control, averaging over 20 turnovers a game and that plays into the hands of an opportunistic PHCC defense that averages over eight steals per game.

Patriots sophomore guard and leading scorer Jerel Jennings headlines a steady backcourt with Keyshawn Johnson and Shawn Duhon. The interior presence of internationals Jacob Traore (France) and Henri Ventoniemi (Finland) have made teams earn their possessions while limiting second-chance opportunities at the same time. They key, Wade said, to his team’s success this season has been balance and the recent addition of sophomore Henry Butler only makes the Patriots stronger on both sides of the ball.

Wade added that the snow forced the team to adjust to a different practice schedule in preparation for tonight’s game. While the time off helps both teams enter fresh, Wade said it ultimately comes down to focus.

“The guys seem to be more focused since the Louisburg game. I think the time off can only hurt if you aren’t focused,” Wade said.

Filed under: Men's Basketball

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