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'Neighbors' Phoebus, Kecoughtan ready for first-place duel

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In the final two weeks of the regular season, we're used to seeing Phoebus in a big game. In November, that is. Certainly not in late January, and certainly not with a round ball.

But the Phantoms' basketball team is off to its best start in years, if not ever. And with a one-game lead in the loss column of the Peninsula District standings, Phoebus (15-0, 11-0) tries to hold serve tonight against its rival from 2 miles down Woodland Road — second-place Kecoughtan (11-3, 11-1).

"We're excited that Kecoughtan has grown to this level and we've grown to this level," Phantoms coach James Daniel said. "People are recognizing this is a big game. It's created a lot of excitement and pride, and we're just down the street. We're like neighbors."

And this should be a fun night at the neighborhood playground — in this case, Phoebus' 1,200-seat gym. Both teams like to push the ball — Kecoughtan averages a PD-leading 71.7 points a game; Phoebus is next at 70.1. Both use their quickness and press on defense. Both have good size up front and deep benches.

"They're going to want to run, and we're going to want to run," Daniel said. "And that will make it really exciting for the fans. I don't think anybody's going to come down trying to pass it 100 times."

Phoebus' relentless press is one of Kecoughtan coach Ivan Thomas' primary concerns.

"If you don't handle their pressure, which they're in all game long, you'll be in for a dogfight," he said. "They're never really out of it when they're down. They've shown that."

Like on Jan. 9 against Bethel, when Phoebus trailed by 10 points with 41/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Phantoms forced six turnovers in nine possessions and pulled out a 56-54 win.

The individual matchup to watch will be Kecoughtan guard Dimitri Batten, the district's top scorer at 18.6 ppg, against Phoebus' Breon Key, maybe the best defensive player in the PD.

Batten is a creative scorer with an assortment of moves at 6-foot-4. Key, at 6-2, did a nice job last week holding P.J. Hairston, a 6-6 junior from Dudley High in Greensboro, N.C., who has committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 10 points below his average.

It'll also be interesting to see 6-7 Dashawn Stitt of Phoebus taking on 6-7 Mitchell Hunter and 6-5 Rajay Bullock of Kecoughtan inside. And the Phantoms' Brian Darden vs. the Warriors' Devonte Williams at the point.

Aside from Batten, the Warriors' hottest player of late has been sophomore Joshua Fortune, who is averaging 14.8 ppg in his last five games. Phoebus' Darden is coming off a 23-point game against Dudley, which followed an 18-point night vs. Woodside.

The Phantoms regularly use 12 or 13 players. The Warriors normally use 10. Make that 12 if, as expected, transfers Jezreel DeJesus and Tyrone Tucker are eligible to play tonight.

"It's a big game for both clubs," Daniel said. "If Kecoughtan wins, they balance the district out. If they lose, we're two games up. It means a lot, and that's good basketball."

This will be the first of two games between these teams in the next eight days. Phoebus is at Kecoughtan on Feb. 6.

Tonight's broadcast This will be the first basketball game of the season LSC has done. The station also plans to cover next Tuesday's game between Bethel and Hampton. Mike Houser and Brent Musgrove will be calling the game, with Bob Hintz providing commentary from the floor.
Tonight's Peninsula District showdown pitting first-place Phoebus at second-place Kecoughtan, who are separated by one game in the loss column, will be televised live by LSC cable channel 48 in Hampton. Scotty Bowers, director of television services for Hampton City Schools, said he received clearance to do the game Wednesday night. The broadcast will start at 5:15 p.m. with the girls game. The boys game will follow. This will be the first basketball game of the season LSC has done. The station also plans to cover next Tuesday's game between Bethel and Hampton. As of now, the Feb. 6 rematch between the Phantoms and Warriors at Kecoughtan isn't on its schedule. Mike Houser and Brent Musgrove will be calling the game, with Bob Hintz providing commentary from the floor. Tonight's game WHO: Kecoughtan (11-3, 11-1 Peninsula District) at Phoebus (15-0, 11-0). TIME: About 7 p.m. (depending on length of JV boys and girls varsity games). TV: LSC 48 (live; girls game at about 5:30 also will be shown). TICKETS: $5/adults, $3/children 11-and-under and seniors 65-and-over.
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