RICHMOND — Xavier Laws was the last Potomac player to make his way to the home locker room at VCU’s Siegel Center after the No. 4 Panthers’ 54-42 win over Henrico in the 5A state championship game. He ran across the court and leaned over the first-row partition to snag his mother, Cindy, in a tight hug. Then the tears started flowing.
“My mom just said she was proud of me,” Laws said. “Because she knew going into the season I probably wasn’t going to start. And she just told me that she was proud of me. That’s what made me start crying.”
The senior guard not only worked himself into a contributing role early this season, but he started and starred in his final high school game. Laws scored 11 points, including nine on clutch three-pointers.
Potomac (28-1) opened the game on a 14-2 run, but the Warriors repeatedly clawed their way back. They pulled within 34-32 with five minutes left in the third quarter. To make matters worse, Panthers leading scorer Randy Haynes picked up his fourth foul a few possessions later.
“I started praying,” Potomac Coach Keith Honore said. “I tell them all the time that winning championships isn’t easy. When Randy picked up that fourth foul, I was almost ready to push the panic button, and then I had to remind myself that we have some great players on this team besides Randy.”
As soon as Haynes went out, his surrounding cast picked up the slack. After a missed three-pointer by Henrico, senior Torrey Dixon corralled the rebound. He fought off a steal attempt and pitched the ball ahead to Tariq Felder on the fast break. George Mason commit Trey Porter cut into the lane to give the Panthers a two-on-one.
“Me and T.T. [Felder] have this look,” Porter said. “And he gave me that look, so I knew he was going to throw it. It was a little bit off, but I still caught it.”
Porter adjusted, then threw down the alley-oop.
Henrico never got closer than six points after that.
As the final seconds ticked off, all five of Potomac’s starters watched from the bench. Honore put in every substitute on the roster to finish out the title game.
“The [subs] worked just as hard in practice as these kids do,” Honore said. “Think about the job that they had to do. . . . Henrico had to deal with us twice. Maury had to deal with us once. But for four months, those kids had to deal with Tariq Felder, Randy Haynes and Trey Porter.”
Porter (18 points, six blocks) knew his team had the title in hand when Haynes reentered with 2 minutes 7 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to put the Panthers up 14. During the awards ceremony, Porter and Haynes were given a pair of pre-cut nets. Porter draped his twine around his neck and wore it like a scarf into the press conference.
“It was handed to me, and I didn’t want to let go of it,” Porter said.
The Panthers “can say they’re Virginia state champions,” Honore said, “and that’s something that can never be taken away from them.”