Woodbridge sophomore guard Jeffrey Allen felt a lot more comfortable walking out of his home gym last night than he did walking into it.
Allen, called up to the varsity earlier this season and plugged into the starting lineup last night with two starting guards hurt, coolly responded with a solid performance to help lead the Vikings to a 60-55 victory over Osbourn in a Cardinal District game.
Allen was not alone in capably handling his magnified role. Fellow backcourt players Jimmy Bryant and Ron Williams also kept the halfcourt offense humming with seniors Maurice Watkins (finger) and Jacob Garner (ankle) in uniform but nursing injuries.
Woodbridge Coach Will Robinson believes the role players racking up extended minutes could be important later in the season. The makeshift lineup found out Monday that the team was going to try to go without Watkins and Garner, who could have played in a pinch.
"I was really pleased with their demeanor," said Robinson, whose team has won seven in a row against Osbourn (8-3, 1-3). "They could have really been shellshocked out here. To all of a sudden have to play a conference game without your starting backcourt and to have them play as well as they did, I was extremely pleased. I think it will pay huge dividends later on."
Allen scored 11 points and Bryant scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds. Williams had 12 points and seven rebounds. Bryant and Williams, both juniors, were on the varsity last year. Allen was not.
"I'd been in the past couple games, so I got all the nerves out then," said Allen, who hit two free throws with 23 seconds left to put his team up 57-52.
Woodbridge (9-2, 3-0) was up 25-15 at the half, and the difference was free throws. The Vikings made 9 of 10, the Eagles 3 of 12. Worse yet for Osbourn was that center Joe Lane picked up his third foul with 3 minutes 8 seconds to play in the first half. With Lane on the bench, and forward Damien Williams missing the game for disciplinary reasons, the Eagles offered scant inside presence.
Osbourn cut a seven-point lead to three in the final minute when John Horton made a three-pointer and added another basket with 27 seconds left to make it 55-52. Allen then sank two free throws, and Brandon Winslow one. Jon Latimer again pulled the Eagles to within three by burying a three-pointer from the left corner, but Shane Staples clinched the win by sinking two foul shots with 2.5 seconds left.
Osbourn Coach Mike Dufrene said Watkins and Garner could have helped Woodbridge, but the Eagles could have done a much better job of helping themselves, as well.
"Mentally we didn't play at full strength," Dufrene said. "We shouldn't have to make a major comeback in the second half. I'm proud of the fact that we grew up to come back like we did, because in previous years this was a blowout."