RICHMOND — For the second straight year, Westfield survived a scare in the Virginia 6A state semifinals, this time riding a floater by Tyler Scanlon with two seconds left to secure a 52-50 victory over Woodside on Tuesday night at the Siegel Center.
After running down the clock, Scanlon (26 points) took a handoff at the top of the key and immediately drove right, bypassing four swiping Wolverines defenders before the senior rose for the decisive score.
“That’s a move I’ve been working on all season,” Scanlon said. “One dribble, jump stop, kind of fade a little bit. It’s a shot you practice, you hope you make it, and it happened to go in.”
Westfield (25-3) will face Oscar Smith on Wednesday at 9 p.m., setting up a basketball rematch three months after the two schools met in the state football final.
The Bulldogs asserted themselves early, balancing an up-
tempo style with sound execution in half-court sets. As Scanlon went to work himself inside, Blake Francis (15 points) was able to find his rhythm along the perimeter and push Westfield to a 33-27 halftime lead.
A more aggressive Woodside team emerged in the third quarter, led by Devante Carter. The senior sliced through Westfield’s defense during a personal 7-0 run that gave the Wolverines their first lead at 34-33.
Westfield’s deficit remained until early in the fourth quarter, when Francis rediscovered his touch. The senior first shot through contact on a four-point play that put the Bulldogs back in the lead, 46-44. Then, after the teams traded baskets, the left-handed Francis drained another jumper, ultimately setting up the dramatic finish.
“We’ve fought to get to this spot,” Westfield Coach Doug Ewell said. “Now we’ve just got to find a way to finish the deal.”
Before Oscar Smith sank one of its final six free throws to ice a 72-62 victory during the first Virginia 6A state semifinal, Blake Pagon took his spot on the block and blankly stared into the stands. A cotton swab plugged the Battlefield swingman’s right nostril while a white bandage strip covered a cut just below his eye, two of several wounds sustained during a physical playoff contest that matched the game’s high stakes.
Though the outcome marked a stark contrast from Battlefield’s march up to this point — the Bobcats had won nine of their previous 10 games by at least 10 points — the literal blood, sweat and eventual tears mirrored the No. 12 Bobcats’ arduous journey during the best season in school history.
“What this team did was special. The way we came together this season, especially toward the end of the season, we truly played as a team,” said Shonari Street, who scored 13 points. “Region champs, advancing to the final four, it speaks for itself.”
The momentum from their historic run sparked the Bobcats (22-7) early in Tuesday’s game. Unfazed by the bigger stage at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center, sophomore Brayden Gault scored nine of his team’s first 14 points in helping Battlefield build a quick lead.
Though the Tigers (24-4), led by the imposing defense of sophomore Nyzaiah Chambers (10 rebounds, 11 blocks), would close the half on a 14-6 run to take the lead, Battlefield would respond after the break. In a game that featured bloodied noses, busted chins and three stoppages to clean up the floor, the Bobcats stood strong, using their physical brand of play to create points at the foul line and build a 48-41 third-
“They went hard the whole time, and we went hard, too,” said Gault, who finished with 20 points. “In the end, we just didn’t get enough.”