Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hayfield Hoops

Atkins Leads The Way as Hawks Feast
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, January 12, 2008; E05

Hayfield Coach Ron Palmer has spent much of the early part of this season working with Aaquil Atkins to get the senior guard to change his style from 'shoot first' to 'protect the ball and lead.'

Palmer, 69, in his first year at the Alexandria school after winning 609 games and a California state title at Long Beach Poly, knew Atkins needed to change his game for the Hawks to win.

Atkins has been paying attention, the latest evidence coming last night in a 67-63 win over visiting Lee.

Atkins scored 12 points to go with six rebounds and three assists to help Hayfield rally from an 11-point deficit and improve to 7-3, 3-1 in the AAA Patriot District.

"It started off a little bit difficult in the beginning," said Atkins, who led Hayfield in scoring during its 6-16 finish last season. "I had to get used to [Palmer's] style of play because it was a lot different than last year."

Palmer was so pleased by Atkins's selfless display -- he also took three charges -- that, in the game's most pivotal moment, he asked the 6-foot guard to take two crucial free throws.

Trailing 62-61 with 1 minute and 47 seconds remaining, Palmer tapped Atkins to take a pair of free throws awarded to the Hawks on a technical foul.

"It's not, 'Can he [hit those shots]?' " Palmer said of Atkins. "I expect him to be able to hit those shots."

Atkins made both free throws to put Hayfield up for good in a game that featured five ties and six lead changes.

Hayfield outscored Lee 24-12 in the fourth quarter and relied on two big three-pointers from sophomore guard Brandon Winbush (13 points) to fuel the rally.

Atkins, however, acknowledged the game was part of the learning process.

"Now, I've really started to come around and I'm really used to it. In college, I'm going to have to play [point guard] anyway, so he's really just trying to get me ready for that role at the college level. I really appreciate everything he's doing for me."

The Hawks' win forced a tie with Annandale (5-6, 3-1) for second place in the Patriot District behind No. 14 T.C. Williams (9-1, 4-0).

Lee (8-4, 2-2 Patriot District), which started the season 7-1, has lost three of its last four.
Four Hawks scored in double figures.

Hayfield 67, Lee 63

Missing Stars: Lee's Tad Dickman (14 points) and Walter Griffin (20) combined for 34 of the Lancers' 51 points before both went to the bench with four fouls late in the third quarter. Lee scored nine points before the two returned with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter and they did not score for the remainder of the game.

Laryea Back: Hayfield's Manny Laryea, a 6-6, 225-pound forward who injured a ligament in his right knee in the fall, scored five points and picked up a technical foul in his first game since the injury.

No comments: