Snow might have saved the Stonewall Jackson boys' basketball season -- not Raiders senior point guard Tyc Snow, the team's soul and its leading scorer, but the stuff that falls from the sky.
During a nine-day game-less stretch last month, while area residents cleared their sidewalks, the Raiders cleared their heads of the unraveling of a once-promising season in which they had won just two of their previous nine games. When play resumed Feb. 21, a revitalized Stonewall team lost at Potomac in overtime, upset the Panthers in the Cedar Run District semifinals and, on Thursday, claimed the program's first district title since 1970 by knocking off Osbourn Park, 54-49, at Stonewall, to qualify for the Northwestern Region tournament.
All of a sudden, the Raiders are again looking like the team that flirted with greatness at times this season when they beat Cardinal District regular season champion Woodbridge (16-9), Maryland school Springbrook (16-5), Cardinal tournament champion Gar-Field (14-8) and Cedar Run regular season champ Potomac (19-4).
The turnaround "was nothing special," said third-year Stonewall coach Marcus Lawrence, a former assistant coach with a Woodbridge program that qualified for regionals each of his four years there. "I think we just wanted to get back to doing basic basketball. I think we got convoluted in thinking too much and not just playing the game.
"The approach is like in a pickup situation where five guys are on the side waiting to play next. We figured as long as we held court, we'd be playing at home and continue to play."
As Cedar Run champions, Stonewall (11-12) will host the Commonwealth District runner-up at 7 p.m. Monday in a region quarterfinal. If the Raiders win, they also would play at home in the semifinals.
"When we came back" from the nine-day break, said senior forward Corey Wheeler, who had 14 rebounds and 13 points in the district championship, "we were all real rested and just determined and ready to go."
"I knew that we had a good chance of winning districts, but our ultimate goal is higher than that," said Snow, whose three-pointer in the waning minutes of the championship gave his team a lead it never lost. "It's good that we won, but it just feels like another game to me."
That nonchalance is hard to fathom considering the boisterous crowd response the win drew on the Raiders' home court, not to mention the fact that Snow had three brothers who played in the Stonewall program, none of whom qualified for a regional. Snow made 14 of 18 free throw attempts in scoring a team-high 21 points in the final.
The semifinal hero was senior Onyie Onunaku, whose skywalking buzzer-beating tip-in toppled Potomac in overtime.
Lawrence said Onunaku, the team's steals and blocked shots leader and second-leading scorer and rebounder, rarely speaks. Onunaku delivered a perfect example of his nonverbal communication skills in the first quarter of the district championship. After burying a three-pointer in front of the noisy Osbourn Park reserves, he turned to the Yellow Jackets' bench and put an index finger to his lips.