HAMPTON — The men’s and women’s Virginia Peninsula Community College basketball seasons got underway last week with the women falling to Berkeley College and the men defeating two post-graduate programs.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, the women got off to a good start against the visitors from New York City, leading by two after the first quarter and four at the half. However, foul trouble and a short bench caught up to the Gators in the second half, and Berkeley won 72-57.
“We wanted to press most of the game because they are a team that couldn’t handle a lot of pressure, and we weren’t able to do that with the foul situation,” said first-year coach Mariah Parker. “And then not having the depth on the bench kind of adds to that.”
Zariia America, from Grafton, scored 27 points for the Gators.
Parker said she liked how her team made last-minute adjustments to their initial impressions of Berkeley.
“Our scouting report was a little different than the team that they brought,” Parker said. “They added a lot of new players.”
In addition, Berkeley used a press the night before in a game against Regent University.
“So just going over how to break that before playing (Saturday), I think the girls executed that very well, getting that scouting tip last minute,” Parker said.
The Gators did well breaking the press and scoring off fastbreaks, but “the rest of our game plan, we didn’t execute the best,” Parker said.
She noted that could have been first-game jitters, foul trouble or other reasons.
But she said her players learned a lot and are looking forward to their next game, which is Saturday, Nov.11 against the College of Southern Maryland. The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at Warwick High School and is part of a doubleheader with the men’s program.
“We are excited to grow and change within this week so that we can come out with a ‘W’ on Saturday,” Parker said. “I still believe that my girls are super, super talented and I am excited for them to be able to show that on the court.”
As for the men, the Gators opened Friday, Nov. 3 with a 72-69 victory over Chosen 1 Academy from Chesterfield and followed up with a 20-point victory over Winston-Salem Christian the next day. Both games were played at the new Henrico Sports and Events Center in Glen Allen as part of the Richard Bland Classic.
Aidan Breathwaite led the Gators in scoring each day with consecutive 18-point games. Kenny Page added 13 steals in the two games. Against Winston-Salem Christian, D’Camron Haynes had 11 points, four rebounds and five steals; Page had 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and eight steals; and Chris Hayes had six points and eight rebounds.
Men’s coach Chris Moore said he was “not at all” pleased with his team’s showing Friday, but said Saturday was much better.
Against Chosen 1 Academy, the Gators let most of a 13-point halftime lead slip away before holding on for the win. They missed a lot of free throws and didn’t do well with their transition defense, he noted, but the second day was a different story.
“Those were the things we emphasized in game two, and we were able to handle them pretty easily,” Moore said of the second-day opponent. “And the second team was better than the first.”
As with Parker and the women’s team, it’s about growth, Moore said.
“I think the goal for us this year, and I tell the guys, is to get better every game,” Moore said. “For me, the fact that we saw progression going into day two … I think that was the win for us.”
Moore noted most of his players are freshmen and getting used to the aspects of the college game — faster pace, bigger court, shot clock — and his coaching style.
“I think we’re in good shape going into next weekend,” he said.
In addition to a doubleheader with the women’s team Nov. 11, the Gators play Nov. 12 against Mid-Atlantic Christian University’s junior varsity team. That game also will be at Warwick High School, and game time is set for 3 p.m.
Other upcoming men’s games are Saturday, Nov. 18, at home (3 p.m.) against Emory and Oxford College; Tuesday, Nov. 21, at The Apprentice School (7 p.m.); and Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Bryant and Stratton College (7 p.m.).
For the women, following the game against the College of Southern Maryland, the Gators close out November with two road games: Sunday, Nov. 19, against Central Carolina, and Thursday, Nov. 30, against Virginia State’s junior varsity team.
With Nov. 11 being Veterans Day, all military veterans will be admitted to the games for free. For the game at Apprentice, the two schools are organizing a community toy drive. Those who donate a toy will be admitted for free.
For more information on VPCC and its athletics programs, visit vpcc.edu.