Nearly a calendar year had passed since Westfield’s full basketball roster last experienced defeat, which left the team with an unfamiliar feeling in the wake of its Virginia 6A North region final loss last Saturday. Westfield had six days to stew before playing again in Friday’s state quarterfinal against No. 12 Hylton.
Intent on fanning the flames inside his players, Westfield Coach Doug Ewell devoted most of those six days to film study, each constructive critique rooted in one sobering reality.
“We know from being here last year and losing in the state championship, there’s certain things we can’t do if we want to reach our goal,” Westfield senior Blake Francis said “If we don’t, all the other wins don’t add up to anything.”
That urgency, though subtle, surfaced in the second quarter of Friday’s contest, and Westfield pulled away for a 67-49 win over Hylton at Robinson Secondary School. Sparked by energetic play from Hank Johnson (20 points, 10 rebounds), 21 points from Francis and patience in its motion offense, No. 8 Westfield reeled off a 13-3 run that turned a tie score into a commanding 10-point lead.
While slashing and passing on one end, Westfield crashed the boards on defense, limiting the offensive opportunities for Hylton’s streaky shooters.
“It sounds simple and cliche, but we really just made shots and we rebounded,” said Tyler Scanlon, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. “If we don’t rebound, we don’t get the ball. And after watching film from our last game, when we got killed on the boards and help-side defense, that stuck with us.”
Dwayne Hill worked to keep Hylton (22-5) close by penetrating into the lane for pull-up jumpers. But with Westfield’s defense limiting top Hylton scorer Jerry Carter to one point and its players knocking down all 12 of its second-half free throws, Westfield maintained a comfortable cushion the rest of the way. Westfield (24-3) advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal round at VCU’s Siegel Center, where it will face Woodside, which defeated West Potomac, 67-57.
“It was hard sitting on that loss,” Johnson said. “We took that to heart, kept attacking and executed.”
Despite asserting itself early in a state quarterfinal against Cosby, Battlefield remained in search of a jolt as the first half came to a close. So with the Titans serving as one of the few teams able to match Battlefield’s length, the Bobcats turned up their intensity outside the paint, unleashing a tenacious full-court press that capitalized on their athletic edge in a 72-51 victory.
Collin Parker, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half, ignited the second-quarter charge with a layup off a steal. Two more steals in the period’s final minute led to a Keagan McGinnis putback that capped a 10-2 run, pushing Battlefield’s halftime lead to 14 points.
“Our mentality is to come out and dominate games, so when we feel like the game may be slipping away, we count on our defensive intensity to get things back in control,” said Jarrett Glover, who scored 10 points off the bench.
The Bobcats’ aggressive play also led to an advantage at the free throw line, where they knocked down 21 of 26 attempts. Meanwhile, Cosby finished just 4 for 9 from the foul line.
Jordan Henry (27 points) helped Cosby slice into the deficit with quick attacks into the lane, but as the Titans (18-9) brought their own dose of defensive pressure to push back into contention, the Bobcats (22-6) used passes downcourt to set up easy transition opportunities. Waiting under the basket were Brayden Gault (team-high 16 points) and Shonari Street (12 points), who poured in several quick buckets to spark a decisive 13-4 run midway through the fourth period.
With the win, the Bobcats advanced to their first state semifinal, where they will face Oscar Smith, which beat West Springfield, 48-41.