Top-ranked Williams successfully fended off the freezing tactics by W. T. Woodson and escaped with a 21-18 victory to win the Northern Virginia Reional championship before more than 6,500 at Robinson last night.
Williams (26-0) will meet the winner of the Central Region in a semifinal game of the Virginia State tournament Friday at the University of Virginia.
It was boring to the fans, but it was sound strategy for the Cavaliers and it almost paid off. The Titans had routed them twice during the regular season, 86-60 and 90-75, and dumped them, 89-74, in the Northern District title game last week.
"I tried it the other way three times, and couldn't win," said Woodson coach Red Jenkins. "We did everything right, just as we planned. We almost had it."
Williams' Craig Harris opened the game with a driving scoop shot before Woodson alerted the crowd to what to expect. It froze the ball for three minutes. Anthony Young sank another basket with 3:10 left in the quarter to give Williams a 4-0 advantage. The lead jockeyed back and forth and Williams led, 19-16, at intermission.
The Titans won the tip to open the third quarter but Harris, selected as the tourney MVP, threw a bad pass and Woodson's Charlie Coen recovered.
The Cavaliers ignored the Williams' fans pleas to "play ball" and never once looked at the basket as they went into their four-corner stall. Jackson deflected a pass, controlled it and raced downcourt, only to throw up a Hail Mary shot that didn't fall. Woodson's Armand Mancini controlled the rebound and the Cavaliers stalled the remaining seven minutes of the quarter.
The only action during Woodson's game of catch was a friendly coversation between Jackson and Mancini at the foul line and the referees picking up paper airplanes off the court.
A shot by Woodson's Scott Carey with two seconds left in the period bounced off the rim and the Titans still nursed their three-point advantage goin into the final quarter.
Again the Titans controlled the tip, but failed to score and Woodson went back to its freeze.
Coen gave Woodson fans hope and the Williams fans a case of nerves. He made a short jumper from the side with 48 seconds left to pull the Cavaliers to within a point, 19-18.
"I got a little nervous near the Holloway, "But for some reason I end," said Titans forward Frank knew we'd win.
With deft ballhandlers Jackson and Harris dribbling around and away from the pressing Cavaliers, Williams ticked a off 34 seconds before Mancini was called for a foul.
It was only the first foul of the half against Woodson, giving Williams possession. Another foul was called four seconds later but, as Jenkins admitted afterwards, "We couldn't foul them fast enough to get them to the line."
On the third in-bounds pass the cagey Jackson took the ball in the backcourt and dribbled down under Woodson's basket as the seconds ticked away.
Jackson, while chased by four defenders, spotted Anthony Young standing under the basket and threw a long pass to the open Young. Young nearly broke the basket with a tomahawk slam-dunk to end four quarters of frustration.