BBall

The Centreville Wildcats in action against the Lake Braddock Bruins.

The Centreville boys basketball team’s recipe for success was again baked to perfection on Tuesday night. This time, in a 62-55 win over Western Branch in a Class 6 state tournament semifinal at Westfield. The Stallions (27-3) topped Massaponax, 61-42 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

The Wildcats (22-6) were to have faced South County on Saturday at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond, but on Thursday, the Virginia High School League cancelled Saturday’s state championship game due to COVID-19 and declared Centreville and South County co-State Champions of Class 6 .

Centreville, appearing in its first state tournament in school history, used its aggressive man defense, and its length, height and strength advantage to control the Bruins (22-5) throughout.

The Wildcats again got clutch shooting from senior guard John Hunter (game-high 19 points) on four three-pointers. It was Hunter’s last-second three pointer last week that beat Lake Braddock in the quarterfinals. Teammate Avery Ford on Tuesday added 16 points, 20 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals.

Standout Mekhai Washington (10 points) was limited for much of the game, but his dunk with 2:40 to play gave his team a 53-45 edge after Western Branch, from Chesapeake, Va., climbed to within five points two minutes earlier. Washington scored 37 points in the quarterfinal win.

One minute after Washington’s dunk, Hunter followed with his fourth three-pointer to make it 56-45. “This is our brand of basketball,” Hunter said. “We play great team defense and hit open shots. Coach Harris always tells us, ‘Control what you can control, and that’s the effort you give when you play defense.’ This was a win or go home game, and we didn’t want to go home. It’s surreal, getting to play in the finals. And if the stars align…”

Backcourt teammate Lance Douglas (10 points) was jubilant following the win. “We’ve not really been known as a basketball school, until recently. No one thought we’d be here. We proved them wrong. We all believe in each other.”

Centreville opened in 1988 and two weeks ago earned its first ever region title. Its coach Kevin Harris said it will prepare for South County as it has all year.

“[Playing in the finals] is new to everyone, [including me],” Harris said. “But we’ve practiced every day this season like we were preparing for the state finals, so we’ll do it again.”

Centreville did not face South County this season. The Stallions reached the state semifinals a year ago and won a state title the season before.

Tuesday, cold-shooting Western Branch fell behind 13-10 after the first quarter and were down 32-23 at halftime after Bruins guard Bobby Johnson connected from half court at the buzzer. A mostly balanced third quarter ended with the Wildcats ahead 40-34. Hunter opened the fourth by hitting a three-pointer and then converted a breakaway layup set up by a Ford blocked shot to make it 45-34 with 7:11 left in the game. The Bruins, who hit only one three-pointer in the game and went 5-for-10 from the foul line, rallied to within 50-45 with 4:22 to play, but got no closer.

“We used our size advantage like we have all season,” Douglas said. “We got stops and turned our defense into offense.”

Harris said his team focused on Western Branch’s “lights out” shooters Cameron Edmunds (17 points) and Efram Johnson (10 points, two three-point plays in the fourth quarter), but few other Bruins were able to significantly contribute.

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