After Woodson’s 75-65 state semifinal loss against Henrico on Monday afternoon at the Siegel Center in Richmond, the Northern Region’s last hope for its first boys state basketball title since 2008 rested on Wakefield. Facing Central Region runner-up John Marshall in the night’s final contest, Wakefield was one game away from the school’s first appearance in the Virginia AAA state championship game.
Those hopes were quickly extinguished during a one-sided game that John Marshall (26-5) never trailed. The Justices relentlessly attacked the rim to grab a commanding 20-8 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back on their way to a 66-46 victory. The win set up a Friday night championship that will for the first time ever feature two teams from the Central Region. Henrico won both previous meetings between the two schools (located only one-and-a-half miles apart) this season, including a 58-51 win two weeks ago in the region final.
Wakefield (25-6) struggled to get to the basket throughout Monday’s game and ended up settling for jump shots that just wouldn’t fall. The Warriors finished the contest shooting 29 percent.
“We shot too many jump shots,” 11th-year Wakefield coach Tony Bentley said. “The next guy thought he could make it, and then the next guy, and there was a domino effect. We weren’t taking the ball to the hole and weren’t being aggressive. We didn’t get here by shooting a lot of jump shots, and tonight we felt like we were a jump shooting team.”
Wakefield also had a hard time slowing down John Marshall senior Gerard Dean-McBride, whose dribble penetration gashed the Warriors’ interior defense for a game-high 26 points. Dean-McBrides’ drives combined with 6-foot-7 big man Brian White’s dominance underneath to force Wakefield into early foul trouble. Senior forward Ermias Nega was whistled for three fouls in the first half before fouling out early in the fourth quarter, and Khory Moore and Domonique Tham each picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
“It took away from us being aggressive,” said Moore, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “Picking up two fouls in the first quarter, it just kills our momentum and kills our drive to keep going to the basket and keep playing good defense because you don’t know if a little push can give you that third foul going into the half.”
Though Monday’s losses by Woodson and Wakefield ousted the Northern Region, Northern Virginia basketball fans could still take pride in having qualified two local teams in the state semifinals for the first time in at least 10 years.