From the moment the final buzzer sounded on last week’s Virginia AAA Northern Region championship loss — a contest in which Wakefield surrendered a 22-point second-half lead — to the start of Thursday’s state quarterfinal against Mountain View, Warriors senior Ermias Nega sought redemption.
Fueled by this emotion, Nega tallied a season-high 32 points and 13 rebounds to lead Wakefield past Mountain View, 83-76, at the Siegel Center in Richmond. The Warriors (25-5) move on to Monday’s state semifinals, where they will play either Great Bridge or John Marshall at 8:45 p.m. at the Siegel Center.
“I don’t want to ever have that feeling again of getting a big lead and losing it, and knowing I had a bad game,” said Nega, who was held to six points in the region championship loss, by phone after Thursday’s win. “Tonight, I tried to be aggressive and get opportunities by attacking the basket and staying on the boards.”
Mountain View attempted to thwart the Warriors’ offense by playing a 1-3-1 zone defense, but after briefly falling behind in the first four minutes, Wakefield went to work in its typical uptempo pace.
“At this stage, we felt like there was nothing we hadn’t seen, but we’d never had a team play a 1-3-1 zone on us for the whole game,” Warriors Coach Tony Bentley said. “We were able to exploit that by sharing the basketball and getting into our rhythm.”
A Khory Moore three-pointer and Dominique Tham (21 points) three-point play gave the Warriors a 35-28 halftime lead. Tham, who scored three straight buckets to start the third period, helped stretch the advantage to 17, leading the Wildcats to use up all their timeouts before the fourth quarter.
A flurry of three-pointers pulled Mountain View within six points in the final minute, but ball control and solid free-throw shooting secured the Warriors’ first state semifinal berth since 2005.