STAUNTON – When you’re unbeaten, teams bring you their best every night.
Robert E. Lee’s boys basketball team knows that feeling, especially after posting a 71-61 victory in Friday night’s clash with Valley District rival Harrisonburg at Paul Hatcher Gym.
The Leemen, as usual, found themselves in a tough battle with the Blue Streaks and trailed 33-32 less than a minute into the third quarter. But Lee, now 7-0, turned up the pressure on defense, which jump-started their offense, and surged past Harrisonburg, taking a 52-43 lead into the final quarter on the strength of 14 third-quarter points by Darius George.
From there, Lee stepped on the gas and got out to 67-51 lead with 2:48 left. The Streaks, as they had all night, battled back, going on an 8-3 run to get to within 68-59 with just over a minute left, but a layup by Jayden Williams and a free throw by Jahleel Pettiford with 27 seconds left sealed the deal.
“We needed to get this one,” said the Marshall University-bound George, who finished with a game-high 35 points and sparked the fourth-quarter run with an alley-oop dunk off a feed from Williams. “We knew it was going to be a close game, so we had to set our tempo higher and play good defense.”
The game that the Leemen got from the Streaks was just what head coach Jarrett Hatcher expected to see.
“Every game is tough,” he said. “We approach them the same way, no matter who is on the schedule. Of course, with Harrisonburg, we know they’re a junior-senior team that we’ve seen a lot over the last three years. They’re a good team and they should be tough in the district the rest of the way.”
George had 11 field goals and hit 13 of 15 from the line for his 35 points. Also reaching double figures were Jarvis Vaughn with 11 and Tyrese Haliburton, who finished with 10.
Harrisonburg (4-3) was led by Malachi Simmons, who scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half.
The Leemen return to action on Dec. 21 at Turner Ashby for a district clash with the Knights.
HARRISONBURG 11 21 15 14 — 61
LEE HIGH 17 15 20 19 — 71