In talking about his team's 39-36 win over visiting Great Bridge in the Eastern Region quarterfinals Tuesday night, Hampton boys basketball coach Walter Brower sounded a lot like Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who warned everyone before the Super Bowl that his team probably wouldn't win pretty.
"It really doesn't make any difference at this point in the season how pretty you are," Brower said. "Right now, it's all about survive and advance."
Sean Johnson scored the go-ahead basket, a floater in the lane with 1:35 to play that put the Crabbers up 35-34. He added another hoop 20 seconds later to give Hampton a three-point lead.
"Coach told me," Johnson said, "if you get a look at a layup, take it. If you don't, kick the ball back out and try again."
Great Bridge (14-10) couldn't recover, thanks to three turnovers in the final minutes and missing two of its last four free throws.
Johnson, who had a game-high 15 points, hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left to push the game to its final margin, as Great Bridge's last-second 3-point attempt sailed wide left.
"I told Sean, 'You've got to get going,'" Brower said. "Sometimes I have to tell him to go out there and get it done, and he just finds a way to do it."
Hampton (21-6) opened the game on an 11-2 run to span the first quarter, with Great Bridge going the first 7:44 of the game without making a field goal. Carvin Powell sank a layup with 16 seconds left in the quarter to give the Wildcats their first points of the game.
The Wildcats clawed back into the game in the second quarter, heading into halftime down 18-13. They opened the second half with a 13-3 run to take a 26-21 lead, using the same formula that worked in the second quarter: tough, physical, swarming defensive pressure on ballhandlers.
"They were doubling, sometimes tripling our guys when they had the ball," Brower said. "And they did a real good job of taking away our inside game."
The Crabbers advanced to Friday's regional semifinal despite poor shooting and 17 turnovers, in part due to a 29-21 rebounding advantage. Hampton hit just 13 field goals and was just 12-for-25 from the free-throw line, but pounding the glass on both ends proved to be the difference.
"Rebounding was the key," Johnson said. "(Great Bridge) had a 6-8 guy and we had to make sure we kept him off the boards."
"I tell the guys before the game, during the game, after the game," Brower said, "Rebound. Over and over and over again.
"You don't crash the glass, you don't win."
HAMPTON 39, GREAT BRIDGE 36GREAT BRIDGE (14-10): Weber 13, Hudson 5, Powell 7, Artis 8, Popelka 2, Jordan 1. Totals 12 8-11 36.
HAMPTON (21-6): S. Johnson 15, Sawyer 2, Monroe 3, Starkey 7, C. Johnson 10, Harper 2. Totals 13 12-25 39.
Great Bridge 211149 — 36 Hampton 117912 — 393-point goals — Great Bridge 4 (Weber 2, Hudson, Powell), Hampton 1 (Starkey). Total fouls — GB 20, Ham 14. Fouled out — Great Bridge, Hudson. Technical — Hudson.