Stephens and Crumpler lead Falcons to title
The Falcons, led by the impressive backcourt tandem of Chris Crumpler and Kevin Stephens, soared to the Atlantic Vision Care Elite City League title at CedarBridge Academy last night, beating the Warriors 76-68.
Crumpler scored 26 of his game-leading 33 points in the first half as the Falcons flew out to a 42-22 half-time lead. However, they had to withstand a fightback, led by Kyle van Heren, Kobe Imlay and Jason Lowe, to see the game home with some clutch free throws.
“It’s all about energy, transition and defence,” Stephens said of the victory and his partnership with Crumpler. “I’ve been playing against Chris all my life he’s been down here, so this is our first time playing together on a local team.
“We have a good team, and we played a good team. We just came up on the better end. We stayed consistent and played the game of basketball.”
Stephens scored 23 points in a game the Falcons always looked in control of, despite a spirited surge from the Warriors. Van Heren scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, with Imlay scoring ten of his 15 and Lowe 12 of his 14 after the interval.
The Falcons scored the game’s first seven points, with the highlight of the run coming when Stephens stole an errant pass and fed a wide-open Crumpler for a three-pointer.
The Warriors struggled with their shooting, both inside and outside, and the Falcons took advantage. Stephens made a lay-up after Crumpler provided a flashy assist off the glass. Crumpler then found his fellow guard on the baseline with a no-look pass, which Stephens scored from.
However, both teams stepped up their defence in the second half, which gave the Warriors the platform to build their comeback attempt.
Stephens hit a three-pointer to make it 62-39 with just under a quarter of the game remaining, but the Warriors shooters caught fire, with Imlay hitting two threes in succession to cap a 17-3 run that closed the gap to 65-56.
Van Heren hit from downtown to make it 71-63 and Lowe scored from beyond the arc to make it 73-66 with 13.2 seconds remaining. However, they were forced to foul at this point, and Stephens and Crumpler were deadly from the charity stripe to seal an eight-point victory.
“Just slow it down, kill the clock, get some [isolation plays],” Crumpler said of their strategy down the stretch. “Put it in Kevin’s hands, put it in my hands, let it play out and stay focused.”
Stephens was full of praise for his team-mate after the game.
“I tell you one thing, and I say this humbly, this is a great basketball player right here and playing with him, he brings out the best of you,” Stephens said. “There were a few times down the stretch where I lost it mentally and he said: ‘Kevin, relax yourself’. That’s what I needed and that’s what good team-mates do. I love to play against and I love to play with him. We’re both going to give our best.”
Stephens, though, maintained that it was a team victory built on resilience.
“With me and Chris, everybody on the team has to play their positions, so with us being the guards and Chris driving, you have to respect it, so that opens up other people,” he said. “But defence wins games and we don’t play that zone, we play in-your-face, man-to-man defence, and that’s what got it done.”
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