Everyone in the gym knew where Khory Moore’s shot was destined the very moment it was released. Wakefield’s senior enforcer had caught fire Saturday night at Robinson Secondary School, where W.T. Woodson found itself drowning in a swelling sea of Moore long balls. Sure enough, the Wakefield senior’s trey splashed nylon, marking his sixth three-point bucket in seven attempts and sending the Warrior faithful into full-throated ecstasy.
Moore’s latest swish handed his team a commanding 52-30 lead in the waning moments of the third quarter in Saturday’s Northern Region championship. With Wakefield’s relentless trigger man leading the charge, a once-stirring battle had bled into a one-sided affair. A battered Woodson side limped into the fourth quarter with a 19-point deficit that appeared to extinguish all hopes of attaining the storied program’s first-ever region trophy.
At least that’s how onlookers in the stands perceived it. Inside the Woodson huddle, there was still time left to fight back.
“We knew we had a shot. We knew it was going to be real tough,” said Woodson senior Alex Boock, who ended the night with 19 points. “But once we started to chip away at the lead, we all got more confident and we started to play better and better as time went on.”
Facing a lack of momentum, points and time, the Cavaliers still managed to summon the confidence of a 23-win team that knew it had the firepower needed to score quickly. They clamped down on defense, holding Wakefield to two points during the final quarter’s first four minutes, but that effort only trimmed their deficit to 54-44.
Still, the momentum had clearly swung back in Woodson’s favor. An Alex Boock jumper here, an Eric Bowles lay-in there, and the Cavaliers suddenly found themselves down by only three as the final minute of regulation neared.
Then Peter Murray hit the shot that nearly blew the roof off.
As the scoreboard hit 1:00, Woodson’s senior forward caught a pass at the top of the key and stroked a three-pointer that knotted the count at 59-59. What a few minutes earlier looked like a surefire Wakefield blowout now took the shape of an imminent Woodson triumph, as the white-clad Cavalry let loose deafening cries of joyous bewilderment from the stands.
From there the contest went into overtime, where Woodson carried its tidal wave of momentum to a 75-70 victory.
“It’s surreal,” Boock said. “It still hasn’t really set in yet, but it’s a great accomplishment for our school and for our team. It’s something we haven’t done before.”
Indeed, the win gave Woodson (24-4, 13-1 Patriot)-- a program with 19 district titles to its name -- its first-ever outright Northern Region title. The last time Woodson qualified for the state tournament was 1966, although that came prior to the Virginia High School League’s creation of the three-classification system in 1970. There was no region tournament in 1966, when the Cavaliers joined Edison and Washington-Lee as co-champions in representing the region.
“Woodson has had a great tradition with 19 district titles, but there’s been something missing there with that region banner,” eighth-year Woodson coach Doug Craig said. “But we finally got it now. I’m happy for everybody in our program, our school, our kids, our student body, all the former players who played in our program for years and years and couldn’t get over the top. To get it tonight was pretty special.”
The Cavaliers’ 22-point second-half comeback was driven by the team’s signature scoring balance that saw five Woodson players reach double figures. Yet no contribution was greater than the hot hand of Damian Bell, who came off the bench to score all 11 of his points after halftime. The senior guard hit two clutch three-pointers that injected much-needed confidence into his teammates and helped ignite the late rally, which fought back Khory Moore’s season-high 37 points for Wakefield.
Then there was Murray, who capped a stellar tournament with 19 points in the final, his fourth straight game in double figures. Murray’s efforts throughout the week, no doubt highlighted by his late heave from the top of the key, culminated in tournament MVP honors.
“It’s a team win. This [MVP honor] doesn’t mean much to me,” Murray said. “I’m glad to be recognized for that, but truly the whole team is the MVP of this tournament.”
The win rendered Woodson’s disappointing Patriot District semifinal loss against Lake Braddock a distant memory. The Cavaliers could finally revel in a greater accomplishment, one that had come courtesy of the most spectacular win in school history.
All that was left was to cut down the net.
“That felt pretty good,” said Craig, whose team opens state tournament play at 8:30 p.m. Friday night against Northwest Region runner-up Battlefield at Robinson Secondary School. “Hopefully we’ll be doing that again in a couple weeks.”