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Sophia Belletti

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Tangier Island Recovers From Icy Grip

By Sophia Belletti and Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — As temperatures on the Chesapeake Bay dropped as low as 9 degrees early this month, a barricade of ice up to 10 inches thick formed around Tangier Island, preventing boats from bringing groceries, medicine and other supplies to the 722 residents on that speck of Virginia off the Eastern Shore.

Fortunately,  a variety of agencies came to the rescue —  the U.S Coast Guard out of Maryland, the Virginia National Guard and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources organized emergency ice-breaking operations to free Tangier Island.

Nearly two weeks after the snowstorm, regular activity on the waters around Tangier resumed Wednesday, and the mail delivery ferry went out to Tangier’s residents for the first time Thursday morning.

“We’re happy to help with what is really life-saving work,” said Gregg Bortz, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Tangier is located in the Chesapeake Bay and consists of three villages — Ewell, Tylerton and Rhodes Point. The island depends on boats for mail and shipments, and single-digit temperatures and thick ice made that impossible.

Tangier Island falls within the Coast Guard’s 5th District, which includes Maryland and Virginia.

“The Coast Guard has a history of providing assistance to Tangier,”  said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges. “The organizations that responded to Tangier Island were based on the availability of assets with ice-breaking capabilities.”

Then the Virginia National Guard flew in from Richmond, making two trips to deliver additional food.

Island officials sought assistance from the Coast Guard, which sent the cutter Chock on Jan. 3. The ship conducted ice breaking and supply delivery until Jan. 5, Hodges said.

“The Chock had to be redirected to break ice in another area, and second request was submitted to the Coast Guard by Tangier for assistance,” Hodges said. “The Coast Guard was unable to facilitate the request, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management took over relief duties.”

According to Bortz, a 100-foot Maryland icebreaker, the J. Millard-Tawes, was brought in from Crisfield, Maryland, 13 1/2 miles from Tangier.

Clearing a path, he said, was “the primary goal.”

The Maryland DNR was called to the island last in 2015. Bortz said the U.S. Coast Guard primarily responds to Tangier while Maryland DNR focuses on helping nearby Smith Island, Maryland.

Capt. Eddie Somers of the J. Millard-Tawes was part of the rescue team that met trucks of supplies at the city docks in Crisfield and took the two-hour journey to Tangier.

Besides the Tawes, the Maryland DNR has three ice-breaking vessels -- the  John C. Widener in Annapolis, A.V. Sandusky in Kent Narrows and Big Lou on the Choptank River.

Tangier Mayor James Eskridge said the island hasn’t experienced ice like this in many  years. The community, he added, always pulls together.

“Some 40 years ago, folks would have bonfires and go ice skating,” he said. “This was the closest to an ice storm we’ve had since then.”

VCU edges Richmond in overtime in A10

By Zach Joachim and Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

PITTSBURGH – A well-rounded stat sheet, a dominant 14-6 overtime period and some timely senior leadership propelled VCU to its fifth consecutive Atlantic 10 championship finals after a heart-stopping 87-77 win over the University of Richmond.

VCU’s scoring depth lead the Black and Gold to victory – the Rams posted 35 bench points, compared to Richmond’s meager two. All five UR starters finished in double figures, while three of VCU’s starters reached the mark.

Senior guard JeQuan Lewis led the Rams in scoring with 18, followed closely by redshirt-freshman guard Samir Doughty (17), redshirt-senior forward Mo Alie-Cox (15) and junior forward Justin Tillman (11). Nine VCU players scored in the contest.

“We outrebounded them and scored 56 points in the paint,” said VCU coach Will Wade. “That’s our formula. We made some plays when we needed to.”

Richmond freshman guard De’Monte Buckingham was nothing short of sensational – he led all scorers with 26 and went 9-14 from the field.

The Rams found themselves in dire straits at the end of regulation. Richmond’s freshman guard Nick Sherod hit a corner-three with 25 seconds left to give the Spiders a 3-point lead.

When all seemed lost, Wade and the Rams looked to their senior leader and asked the world of him – and Lewis delivered.

The first-team all-conference guard rose up from the wing and tied the game after running a curl off a screen in the post. Junior guard Jonathan Williams fed him right in the shooting pocket on a play Wade said the Rams run frequently.

“I had shooting in my mind before the play even started,” Lewis said. “We practice that play a lot.”

On the final possession of regulation, Richmond senior guard ShawnDre’ Jones had a chance to give his Spiders the win. UR got the switch it wanted, with Alie-Cox matched up against Jones on the perimeter. The VCU senior forward showed off his versatility by forcing a fade-away, contested jump shot that went begging.

“A team that forces overtime wins 72 percent of the time,” Wade said. “They were going to have hit a crazy shot in regulation to beat us – and they didn’t.”

“Mo helps us so much defensively. How many other fives can switch off defensively onto a guard and just bottle him up and make him shoot an 18 foot, contested fade-away jump shot? He’s a freak of nature – that’s why he’s going to be playing in the NFL, or whatever he’s going to do.”

Freshman guard Samir Doughty, who was recently relegated to a six-man role after starting for much of the season, was a catalyst for the Black and Gold. Doughty’s ability to get to the rim was key for a VCU team that – according to Wade – settled for too many jump shots in the second half.

“We took so many pull-up jumpers in the second half, I was so mad,” Wade said. “Samir’s instinct is to put his head down and drive the ball. We needed that mentality today.”

Lewis agreed. “Samir is a great player and scorer. We need that from him. He’s scrappy.”

The VCU Rams will face the University of Rhode Island Rams on Sunday in the Atlantic 10 tournament championship. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:30 on CBS. The last time the Rams played each other, Rhode Island out muscled VCU and won by a final of 69-59 up north. RI did not visit the Siegel Center this year.

“It’s going to be up and down. It’s going to be physical,” Lewis said. “We have good guards; they have good guards. We have good post players; they have good post players.”

“They obliterated us on the glass,” Wade said. “We weren’t strong in the paint. They’re the one team in the league that’s as physical as we are.”

One thing is for certain: By Sunday afternoon, a team named the Rams will be the 2017 Atlantic 10 tournament champions.

VCU beats George Mason in A10 tournament

By Zach Joachim and Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

PITTSBURGH – In his third game back following a foot injury, freshman guard De’Riante Jenkins led the VCU Rams with 15 points to knock George Mason University out of the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, 71-60, Friday evening.

“It’s really nice to have De’Riante back,” said VCU coach Will Wade. “He was tremendous.”

PPG Paints Arena felt a lot like a home game at the Siegel Center Friday night, as RamNation traveled in superb fashion. At least 3,000 VCU supporters made their voices heard in the Steel City.

Following nine ties and 10 lead changes, VCU pulled away in the final six minutes of the game. Senior guards JeQuan Lewis and Doug Brooks fueled the late onslaught with a pair of three pointers each.

Lewis pointed to his team’s mindset as a cause for the late run.

“(We got) more aggressive,” Lewis said. “We were settling a lot for perimeter shots. We just ran plays to get us driving downhill.”

Lewis knocked down five shots in the second half en route to 13 points on the evening, following a dry spell for the Dixon, Tennessee, native. He also recorded six assists and three steals.

Redshirt-senior forward Mo Alie-Cox went 0-4 from the floor and junior forward Justin Tillman recorded seven points. The struggles down low rendered it pivotal for the guards to knock down outside shots. Alie-Cox did, however, did chip in a pair of vintage blocks, which came on consecutive possessions in the second half and fueled the late momentum shift.

VCU shot 57 percent from beyond the arc in the second half, largely thanks to Lewis (2-4), Brooks (2-3) and Jenkins (3-3).

The Black and Gold applied pressure early and often, attacking the Patriots in a full-court zone press for most of the night before dropping back into a half-court zone. The Rams forced 14 turnovers and created 20 points off the resulting opportunities.

“We talk about the last six minutes of the game a lot – we call it winning time,” said Wade, whose team finished second in the A10 regular season. The conference champion, Dayton, lost to Davidson in the A10 tournament earlier Friday.

“We executed down the stretch,” Wade said. “When we’re making threes like that, the scoreboard really adds up. They threw a bunch of junk defenses at us, and it took a second for us to adjust. But once we figured it out, our guys were tremendous. I’m really proud of all of them.”

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