Obviously timid in its new environment and uncharacteristically trailing at halftime, top-ranked T.C. Williams showed its more familiar side in the second half last night and dominated Chantilly, 63-50, in the first semifinal at the AAA Northern Region boys' basketball tournament at George Mason's Patriot Center.
T.C. Williams advanced to tonight's final against Wakefield, which beat West Springfield, 56-55, in the second semifinal. Senior George Johnson scored the winning basket at the buzzer for the Warriors (23-4).
The Titans (24-3) had not trailed at halftime against a region opponent this season before yesterday but fell behind 30-26 to the Chargers (15-10).
Senior guard Glenn Andrews scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter, during which T.C. Williams outscored the Chargers 21-5. Junior Tony Winbush (14 points) and senior Mike Davis (17 points) helped the Titans hold a rebounding advantage against a Chantilly team that was getting tired, according to Coach Jim Smith.
"Yes, we had some jitters shooting in this arena" that was new to the team, Andrews said. "But we didn't want our season to end here."
Winbush called his team's first-half play "shaky."
"But then we crashed the boards and got the ball to our big men," he said.
T.C. Williams was "walking and was a bit unsure of itself in the first half," Titans Coach Ivan Thomas said. "Then we made the mental adjustments and figured out our spacing on the floor, allowing us to put on more pressure."
That resulted in a 13-3 run to open the third quarter, including two dunks by the 6-foot-9 Davis (10 rebounds, two blocked shots) and three baskets by Andrews.
The Chargers committed six turnovers in the quarter.
"We gave the same effort in the second half, but the shots weren't falling," said Chantilly senior Ben Wheeler, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "We were so excited in the first half. We knew we needed a perfect game to beat T.C."
In the second semifinal, Johnson nearly cost his team its season by fouling West Springfield's Kevin Kilday.
On that foul, Kilday gave his team a 55-54 lead with four seconds to play. Following a timeout, Wakefield inbounded the ball from mid-court with 1.3 seconds left. The pass went to Johnson, who was coming off a high screen set by Jon Ford alone under the basket, and he banked it in at the buzzer.
"It was execution, baby, execution," said Johnson, whose team advanced along with the Titans to next week's state tournament.
"After [Kilday] hit the free throw and the timeout, I ran over to my coach and told him I wanted the ball. Getting back to states is what I've been dreaming about since we lost in this tournament to South Lakes last year. As a senior I've left it all out on the court all year, but I've gotten a lot of help from my teammates."
West Springfield (19-6) led most of the game and by nine points with 5 minutes 40 seconds to play. But the Warriors rallied, as Ford hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds left that tied it.
Region Recognition: "During the 1990s, Chantilly was talked about being a final four team every year, but maybe some of that was empty talk," said Chantilly Coach Jim Smith. "But I have to give it to our seniors, they put us back on the map this year and re-energized our program."
All-Around Game:West Springfield senior Kevin Kilday scored 12 points, had five steals and three assists.