W.T. Woodson returns to Robinson Secondary School on Friday night for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff against Northwest Region runner-up Battlefield in the quarterfinal round of the Virginia AAA state tournament. The game will mark Battlefield’s first appearance in the state tournament, and Woodson’s first since 1966.
Woodson (24-4, 13-1 Patriot) got to this point by relying on the kind of balance that prevents opponents from placing extra emphasis on any one player. Different players have led the Cavaliers in scoring each of the past five games, and according to coach Doug Craig, six players have scored at least 20 points in a game this season.
Yet the Northern Region champions might be running into a squad with even more balance on Friday. Four of Battlefield’s starters average in double figures, while sophomore swingman Kameron Hedgepeth averages 9.9 points per game.
After dropping its first three games of the season, Battlefield (19-9, 7-3 Cedar Run) developed a sense of confidence that came from relying on each other rather than on any one player.
“The biggest thing the past few weeks is we’ve been sharing the ball and getting very good balanced scoring,” Battlefield coach Kurt Pauly said. “That’s really been the key. We’ve been sharing the ball really well. Everyone’s been scoring and playing well, kind of like the team we’re going to play.”
The Bobcats don’t have a lot of size (their tallest player, Terrell Walker, is six-foot-four). They run an aggressive-style offense in which all of their starters thrive on attacking the basket off the dribble. Woodson needs to be particularly wary of junior guard Trevor Blondin and senior point guard Roman Hall, two players that like to go to the rim and draw contact.
“We’re a team that likes to get out and go,” Pauly said. “We like to attack the basket. We’re an up-tempo team. But we’ve been preaching all season that we need to score in the halfcourt too. I think all five of our guys can take you off the dribble.”
Hedgepath’s ankle injury in the first quarter was one of the reasons Battlefield surrendered a 10-point lead to lose, 68-64, in the Northwest Region championship on Saturday against Mountain View. Pauly said he was hopeful but uncertain about his return to the lineup Friday.
Pauly, in his second year at the helm after coaching a Minneapolis team to a Class 4A championship appearance in 2006, leads a program making unprecedented strides this season. Battlefield, a Haymarket-based school founded in 2004, had never won a boys regional basketball game until this month.
Friday’s winner moves on to Monday’s semifinal round at the Siegel Center in Richmond, where they will meet the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Central Region champion Henrico and Eastern Region runner-up Kecoughtan.