The T.C. Williams boys' team and Woodson's girls' team captured the Northern Region high school basketball championships last weekend in games that hardly could have been more different.
Both teams will play in the state championship semifinals in Charlottesville tomorrow. T.C. Williams goes to the state tournament fresh from fending off Hayfield, 62-58; Woodson spirits are riding high on the strength of a solid 62-39 victory over Robinson.
When the clocks ran out on the regional championship games, T.C. Williams had boosted its season record to 19-8 and Woodson had scored its 26th victory this season without a loss.
For Coach Mike Hynson, there were moments of agony all along the way to his fourth regional title in nine years at T.C. Williams. The Hayfield game was no exception.
Going into the final quarter with a 48-37 lead, Hynson warned his players before they took the floor: "Keep your heads out there. They'll come at you with everything they've got. . . . You've got to hold them off."
Hynson then watched in disbelief as Hayfield, led by Carlton Shearin and Jerome Butler, scored seven straight points in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter, cutting the Williams lead to four points.
The teams traded baskets over the next four minutes, until Butler grabbed the rebound at T.C. Williams' end of the floor, passed to a teammate, raced to the Hayfield basket, took a return pass and scored, making it a 56-54 game with 2:15 left.
At that point Hayfield coach Bob Chuey took a timeout to talk to his streaking team.
In the locker room at halftime, with his team losing 34-23, Chuey had told the players, "You can go out there and turn this game around, but you're not going to do it in the first minute. You have 16 minutes to do it."
Now Hayfield had struggled to within two points of a tie, and during the timeout Chuey urged them on: "We've got 'em where we want 'em! Do the job defensively. We've got 'em where we want 'em!"
Back on the floor, Williams pulled to a 60-56 lead on a basket by James Wood with 1:35 left, but 18 seconds later Butler scored, again closing the gap to two points.
The scored remained 60-58 with Hynson, Chuey and the crowd of 5,500 all on their feet until, with five seconds left, Butler missed a jump shot. Shearin pulled down the rebound but missed the follow-up shot. T.C. Williams' Terry Pullen rebounded and was fouled with two seconds left. He sank his free throws for the winning margin.
Hynson, 41, was the object of criticism earlier in the season when his team was struggling. A petition for his dismissal was being circulated in Alexandria, accusing Hynson, he said, of "questionable coaching policies."
"It turned out about 39 kids (none on the basketball team) had signed it, but when word got out about it, I was afraid of how it might affect the team," Hynson said. "But the kids picked me up and helped me. They asked me at practice, 'How will you coach today? Questionably or unquestionably? . . .'
"They carried me off the court after the (Hayfield) game. You know, that's never happened to me before."
Woodson coach Cheryl Thompson also was carried off by her team, a bunch of sharpshooters led by juniors Lorraine Rimson and Helen Baroody, who went into the fourth quarter with a 41-34 lead and accelerated to the 23-point final margin.
"Robinson had to go man-to-man against us in the fourth quarter if they wanted to catch up, and we loved that," said Thompson, 33, now in her seventh season as coach. "That's just feeding our fire."
The 6-foot-1 Rimson recorded 17 points and 22 rebounds against Robinson, and floor leader Baroody kept the team under control as she has done all year.
For Woodson and Rimson in particular, the victory was especially sweet. A year before, Robinson had defeated Woodson in the finals and gone on to win the state championship. Rimson could not play then because of an injury.
"We set our goals last year right after that game," Thompson said. "All year they've been ready to play and learn. . . . If I were a coach trying to defend our team, I don't know what I'd do to stop us."
Woodson plays Deep Creek of Virginia Beach tomorrow at 3:45 p.m. and Williams meets Marshall Walker of Richmond at 7 p.m. Both games will be played at University Hall in Charlottesville.