As a general rule, basketball timeouts are for finding answers, adjustments derived from the minutes—and miscues—preceding them.

But when Colonial Forge coach Drew Miller called for one with less than four minutes remaining in Tuesday’s 75–61 victory over Stafford, he instead asked a question. It was one that was on his mind long before he watched the Indians use a deluge of 3-pointers to wash away an Eagles’ lead that reached 10 points at its high watermark early in the fourth quarter.

“I was just like, ‘Are we gonna finally finish a game or not?’ ” Miller recalled.

The Eagles’ response, at least initially, was a resounding no.

Out of the stoppage, Stafford’s Cole Sowers promptly drained a 3-pointer to complete the Indians’ comeback and tie the game at 57.

Based on recent history, Miller’s query was a fair one. In all but one of Colonial Forge’s previous losses this season, The Eagles (6–3) were ahead at some point. A Jan. 6 defeat at Massaponax was marked by a particularly memorable collapse in the second half.

The timing of Stafford’s run made the sense of déjà vu all but impossible to block out, admitted forward James Shellington.

“I thought that today, too,” said Shellington, who notched two of his 17 points on a two-handed dunk in the second quarter. “But everybody stayed together once they tied it.”

On the next Eagles possession, Shellington drove for a lay-up and was fouled. He completed the old-fashioned three-point play, keying a 10–0 run over the final 3:25 as Colonial Forge held on for a victory that was far closer than the score indicated.

Colonial Forge’s Khalil Smalls spent his Tuesday afternoon watching film of Stafford’s 67–50 win in the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 19. The complacency he witnessed on tape infuriated him.

“We told ourselves, we can’t lose it again, we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Smalls, who led all scorers with 24 points and made five 3-pointers. “We have to have a change.”

The biggest adjustment came on the defensive end of the floor, where the Eagles mixed up their man pressure with a dose of the 1–3–1 zone. The varied looks did well to fluster a Stafford team that hit nine 3-pointers Tuesday and “can shoot the crap out of the ball,” according to Miller.

After the Dec. 19 game, first-year Stafford coach Brett Lively attempted to temper the Indians’ confidence.

“I tried to stress to our guys that we’re not 20 points better than them,” Lively said. “I mean everybody in the county is night-in, night out—it’s going to be a close, hard-fought ball game.”

Three Stafford players reached double figures, with D.J. Lardge and Jordan Dupee each scoring 14 points for an Indians squad that led 16–15 after one quarter.

When Colonial Forge hosts North Stafford tonight, the Eagles still have plenty of question marks. But they’ll head into the rematch with the Wolverines knowing they’re capable of authoring a winning response.

Stafford     16     12     15     18     —     61
Colonial Forge1517152875

Stafford (11-3): D.J. Lardge 14, Jordan Dupee 14, Tyveon Shaw 10, Dejour Johnson 6, Cole Sowers 8, David Pettengill 5, Mason Wirth-Lefler 4. Totals: 21 10-15 61.

Colonial Forge (6-3): Khalil Smalls 24, James Shellington 17, Josh Sarratt 8, Troy Bernal 8, Jakhari Taylor 7, P.J. Schoolfield 6, Jalen Wills 3, Kareem Burgess 2. Totals: 28 10-14 75.

3-pointers: Stafford 9 (Lardge 4, Sowers 2, Johnson, Dupee, Shaw); Colonial Forge 8 (Smalls 5, Schoolfield 2, Willis).

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5404


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