Stonewall Jackson senior guard Marcus Farber had one mission Tuesday night in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region quarterfinals: Pester Gar-Field senior guard Zach Fong, who entered the game second in the area in three-pointers with 99.
Farber relished the task, holding Fong without a field goal until the fourth quarter, and the Raiders led almost from start to finish in a 60-49 home win that pushes them one game closer to the first state tournament berth in program history.
Farber tends to draw the difficult defensive assignments, including occasionally in practice against senior teammate J.R. Washington, the player of the year in the Cedar Run District. But it’s sweeter to be charged with stopping the other team’s leading scorer in an elimination game.
“I like seeing the frustration on the opponent’s face,” said Farber, who also guarded Fong for much of Stonewall’s 10-point win over Gar-Field last month. “It was lot of energy, a lot of energy, a lot of energy. When he came off the screens, all I had to do was just stay on his hip.”
“That was really [Farber’s] only assignment, to lock down Zach,” said Washington, who scored a team-high 23 points despite picking up his third foul late in the first half. “We couldn’t have asked for a better game from him. He’s quick, and he can stay with you. He has an underrated wing span. He’s long and can deflect passes. If you shoot, his hand is going to be in your face. It’s hard to get past him.”
Stonewall led 50-33 with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then Fong broke his 0 for 11 streak, and he had company. He and junior guard Danate McClendon each hit two three-pointers to make it 55-49 with 1:48 left.
Farber, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, then drove for a basket, as did junior guard Greg Stroman, to run the lead back to a comfortable 10 points for the Raiders (19-6), who won their 11th straight game.
“I wish I was hitting them in the beginning,” said Fong, who will play at Navy and entered the game averaging 18.4 points. “Every team I think this year has put someone in my face the whole time. It wasn’t anything different. I just didn’t shoot the ball well tonight.”
“Zach’s a great player; you give him an inch, it’s three points,” Stonewall Coach Marcus Lawrence said. “It energizes our team to see Marcus out there running off screens, getting bumped, getting pushed and man-handled.”
Stonewall junior forward Diandre Stubbs added nine points, nine rebounds and four assists.
McClendon led Gar-Field (22-5) with a season-high 15 points. Senior guard Curtis Lovitt added 13 points and eight rebounds.
“They jammed up almost everything,” said Gray, whose team committed 13 turnovers in the first half. “We needed to get off to a good start in that environment and we didn’t. We bobbled a lot of balls in and around the basket. It was an uphill climb. We’d get it to a reasonable distance, and then we’d go right back to what got us in the hole in the first place. That’s a formula for disaster.”
Stonewall will play at Stafford County school Mountain View on Thursday in the semifinals for a chance to reach the region championship and earn that first state tournament berth. The Raiders beat Mountain View, 74-71, on Dec. 8. Stonewall’s only local losses have been to No. 7 Theodore Roosevelt and to No. 18 Wakefield.
Gar-Field, a state qualifier last season, will graduate its top four scorers off a Cardinal District championship team that posted the third-highest win total in Coach Andy Gray’s 20-year tenure.
“I’ve had some overachieving groups,” Gray said, “and this bunch is right up in there in the overachiever hall of fame for me.”
Elsewhere in the Northwest Region, Battlefield won at Potomac, 74-60, to set up a semifinal matchup at George Washington-Danville — a 78-57 winner over Hylton.
On the girls’ side, Stonewall Jackson narrowly edged GW-Danville, 41-39 in Manassas, to earn a semifinal home contest against Forest Park, which took down William Fleming. Potomac squeaked past Frankling County, 55-53, to reach the other semifinal, where they will face Colonial Forge, a 58-47 winner over Battlefield.