— Phoebus had waited 33 years for this. And the last thing the Phantoms wanted to do was put things off for the weekend.
After shaking off a cold start, Phoebus turned it around for a 64-53 win Friday night over Menchville to clinch its first Peninsula District championship since 1976-77. The Phantoms (20-1, 16-1) will be the top seed in next week's PD tournament.
"It makes us proud," said senior guard Kyle Saunders, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half. "We worked so hard to make this a program and took the right path because we knew one day, we'd be here where we are."
The win made Monday's anticipated rematch at Kecoughtan essentially meaningless. Regardless of the outcome, Phoebus will play host to eighth-seeded Denbigh in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
After trailing by five at halftime, the Phantoms outscored the Monarchs 22-7 in the third quarter and pulled away. Phoebus went 6-of-11 from the field in the period. After shooting only two free throws in the first half, the Phantoms went 19-of-27 from the line in the final 16 minutes.
"At halftime, we talked about taking our play to another level," said Phantoms coach James Daniel, who was a freshman at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas when Phoebus last won the district. "We had to attack the basket because we were settling for jumpers. And when your non-primary shooters are shooting jump shots, there's nobody there for the rebound."
It took Phoebus 33 seconds to erase Menchville's five-point halftime lead. Dashawn Stitt's three-point play with 5:17 left in the third gave the Phantoms the lead for good at 38-35.
Phoebus led by 10 points going into the final period, but Menchville had one more run in it. Tyriq Crawford's jumper off the glass made it a five-point game with 4:51 left. But Phoebus closed by making 11 of its final 16 free throws.
An obvious factor was depth. Phoebus regularly uses 13 players, which helps when it has to play on back-to-back nights. Menchville was coming off a tough loss Thursday night at Hampton and couldn't match the Phantoms' bench.
"We know how many minutes we're logging at halftime," Daniel said. "We feel when we're going against a team that's using seven, eight players, their legs aren't going to hold out."
Saunders could see that on the floor.
"We're all well-rested," he said. "We all go hard when we're in the game, and the next five that come in put out just as much."
As it did a few miles away at Warwick High on Monday night, Phoebus struggled to find any offensive rhythm early. Everybody except Saunders, that is. He scored 16 of the Phantoms' 27 points in the first half, 12 coming on four 3-pointers.
Saunders was 5-of-6 from the field in the first two periods. His teammates were a combined 5-of-22.
PHOEBUS 64, MENCHVILLE 53
Phoebus12152215 — 64Menchville1418714 — 53PHOEBUS (20-1, 16-1): Saunders 18, Stitt 13, Key 4, Darden 9, Williams 1, Jones-Clark 3, K. Marshall 9, Deloatch 5, Robinson 2. Totals 18 21-29 64.
MENCHVILLE (13-9, 9-9): McKnight 3, Crawford 9, Powell 3, Simon 16, Jacobs 12, Burton 7, Mayo 3. Totals 19 11-19 53.
JV: Phoebus won.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun