NORFOLK — It was a half-hour before tip-off when Kecoughtan's bus finally pulled into the underground garage at Scope. Traffic had been a mess all the way over. And for their most important game of the year to date, the Warriors already were off course.
Not that you could ever tell. Kecoughtan came out hot, got hotter, and rolled to a 77-66 win over Western Branch in Thursday's Eastern Region quarterfinals. The Warriors (24-4) advanced to Sunday's 8 p.m. semifinal against King's Fork, a 69-59 winner Thursday against Norcom in double overtime.
With a less than ideal pregame, Kecoughtan shot 54 percent from the floor and never trailed. So who cares about a traffic jam and arriving late?
"We don't worry about other things around us," forward Rodney Bullock said. "We just play basketball. All we really need is 15 minutes to warm up, and we'll be fine."
Bullock was more than fine with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. Greg Alexander added 23 on 9-of-15 shooting. And Lawrence Williams, a modern-day Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson, had 16 points in 12 minutes off the bench.
Here's an indication of the Warriors' energy level Thursday night: They outscored Western Branch 28-12 in transition.
"Sometimes, coaches can get in the way of kids," Kecoughtan coach Ivan Thomas said. "Just let them play. I didn't say anything but just go out and play. We'll fix whatever happens."
The game's first play was a glimpse into how the evening would unfold. Western Branch's Demonte Burns missed a 3-pointer, Bullock rebounded and hit Alexander in stride for a layup on the other end.
The Warriors led 10-8 when Williams' drive ignited an 8-0 run. From that point on, Kecoughtan never led by fewer than seven points.
Williams scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in seven minutes in the first half.
"He's 'Dark Horse' -- that's what I call him," Thomas said. "He's going right, he's going left at the same time. You really can't figure out which way he's going. That's what he does. He can light it up in a hurry."
Bullock was, in Thomas' words, "vintage Rajay." His buckets included a reverse layup in traffic, a dunk off a drive, a turnaround from 16 feet on the baseline, and a coast-to-coast layup off a rebound. But his best play might have been a half-court, one-handed bounce pass to Alexander for an "and-one" dunk.
Playing on a floor that is 10 feet longer than what they're used to, and shooting against a deeper backdrop, the Warriors needed no adjustment period.
"Not really," Alexander said. "The basket's just as round as the one at our high school."
Kecoughtan led by 16 with 5:25 left in the second quarter and 15 with 7:01 remaining in the game. But the Bruins (18-9) hung around and made things interesting when Burns' 3-pointer cut it to 71-64 with 1:14 left.
Maybe the Warriors were finally gassed at that point, but they had enough to hang on. Even with their pregame routine thrown off course.
"This team's pretty focused," Thomas said. "They've seen a lot, so I really wasn't worried. When we finally got here, it was like, 'OK, we've been here before.'"
KECOUGHTAN 77, WESTERN BRANCH 66
WESTERN BRANCH (18-9): Thomas 5, Ribeiro 9, Burns 19, Jamison 19, Corrigan 2, D. Johnson 12. Totals: 28 6-9 66.
KECOUGHTAN (24-4): Bullock 27, Haskett 2, Alexander 23, Poe 9, Williams 16. Totals: 31 12-16 77.
3-point goals: Western Branch 4 (Burns 2, Thomas, Ribeiro), Kecoughtan 3 (Alexander 2, Williams).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun