Senior center Bilal Nichols was a force inside, and freshman guard L.J. Stansbury provided some much-needed late-game offense as Hodgson pulled away from host Appoquinimink for a 58-52 nonconference boys basketball victory Saturday.
Nichols scored 23 points and snared 15 rebounds while Stansbury netted 10 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 16-point effort. The win pushes the Silver Eagles’ record to 4-0 and should make their upcoming sight-seeing trip to New York a much more festive journey.
“Every year we go to New York,” Hodgson coach Ed Sobocinski said. “It’s just fun to see our kids in Times Square. I’d say half our kids have never been to New York.”
After a strong finish against Appoquinimink, Sobocinski was able to joke with his players that he considered canceling the trip midway through the third quarter.
That was around the time the Jaguars had completed a 12-2 run to go up 40-33 in what had been a back-and-forth game. A free throw and 3-pointer by Evan Ward (12 points) and a pair of drives off transition by Myles Cale (13 points) sparked the Appoquinimink (3-3) surge. More importantly, the Jags’ defense was having more success limiting the touches by Nichols as well as his front-line accomplice, Matt Peel (eight points).
“They did a good job of taking that away,” Sobocinski said. “And, honestly, they were challenging our guards to hit 3s. I think that was [the] difference in the third quarter. If they’re going to pack it in against our big men, our guards are going to have to hit shots.”
Sophomore Shermar Pride took the dare and sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around four free throws by Stansbury in a 10-0 burst that pushed Hodgson into the lead 43-40 with 7:09 remaining in the game.
“The fourth quarter, we turned it up, we stepped up our defense,” said Nichols. “We had a little adversity, but we were able come together and fight through it.”
In a foul-ridden fourth in which 26 combined free throws were shot, Hodgson limited the Jaguars to two field goals – a fast break and a 3-pointer. Meanwhile, Stansbury carried the Silver Eagles through to the end. He scored on a break set up by Nichols’ rebound and outlet pass, followed with a 3-pointer, then sank five of six free throws.
Sobocinski is heartened by the events of the afternoon, knowing teams don’t peak in December. If this is his inside-outside game now, what will it be like in late February?
“With L.J., who was one of the best players in the state last year as an eighth-grader [at Gunning Bedford],” the coach said, ” it must be a relief to him not to have so much attention on him with Bilal on the court. It opens up so many more opportunities for him to get free on the court.”