DALE CITY It was a performance that, physically, shouldn’t have been possible.
Then again, the Woodbridge High School girls basketball team has spent the entire season defying logic. So after spending the entire afternoon on a chartered bus, the Vikings once again did the unexpected.
They blew out sixth-ranked Forest Park to capture their second straight Northwest Region Tournament championship.
“We were tired, but we really wanted this one,” Woodbridge senior center Whitney Allen said after scoring a game-high 22 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to lead the Vikings to a 61-46 victory at Hylton High School.
“It’s the will to win. We wanted to come out and show them we’re contenders in the state tournament,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll see Forest Park again in the state championship. They’re our friends and we like to play them.”
The fledgling rivalry between the two Cardinal District programs has been filled with intrigue and drama this winter. The Bruins, who spent a significant portion of the season ranked No. 1 in the state, won three of four games against Woodbridge prior to last night’s game, including a 53-33 triumph in the district tournament finals last week.
With Allen and freshman reserve center Ariene Jenkins leading the way, the Vikings reminded the Bruins as well as scouting parties from Atlee and Petersburg that they are deserving of a state-tournament berth.
Jenkins finished the night with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots, while senior forward Diana Martinez added 11 points and nine rebounds for the 23-6 Vikings.
A night after they defeated Franklin County 64-42 to keep their state title quest alive, the Vikings returned from Roanoke at 2 p.m. and were back in the gym just a few hours later. They spent much of that time conserving energy and devising a plan to beat the Bruins.
“We were so tired on the way back. On the chartered bus everybody was sleeping,” Jenkins said. “We watched the Forest Park game from when we lost and went over all the mistakes we made. Then we went back to sleep.”
The Vikings were wide awake once they took the court. They held Forest Park scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game and allowed the Bruins only one lead the entire night.
“Our main goal is intensity. We never gave up because we knew we could get it done,” said Jenkins, who was largely responsible for preventing the Bruins from establishing any type of inside offense.
“Before I got on the bus to come to Hylton I was thinking about all the stuff people have told me. I got my CD player, listened to my music and meditated,” she said. “Then, when I saw the chance out on the court I took it.”
Jenkins wasn’t the only Viking to take advantage of the occasion. With a first-round home game in the state tournament up for grabs, Woodbridge seized it with an inspired effort from 11 players. Sophomore Tiffany Gaskins provided her usual spark on defense while junior Jordan Parsels contributed ball-handling and three clutch free throws.
Senior Faith Blackshear scored five points, while point guard April Henderson, who vowed on Tuesday that the Vikings would win the regional title, came up with seven points and four assists.
But it was Allen who elevated the Vikings’ game to championship level. The George Washington University-bound center had a game-high nine field goals, with six of those coming in a second-quarter surge that gave Woodbridge a 30-26 halftime lead.
“Whitney Allen absolutely abused us,” Forest Park coach Chrissy Kelly said. “We just didn’t come to play. I thought they’d come out and take it to us. Our kids didn’t step up to the challenge. We had too many breakdowns.
“We were put in a great position and we didn’t capitalize on it.”
The Bruins (24-3) had the luxury of playing at home in the semifinals on Wednesday night and sleeping in their own beds. They went through a normal routine at school, but they connected on just one jump shot in the first quarter and never found the groove that has carried them to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Woodbridge will play Central Region runner-up Petersburg in the state quarterfinals Saturday night at Hylton, while the Bruins face undefeated Atlee (27-0) at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland.
“We were trying to keep them from shooting three-pointers and we wanted to make it tough for them inside,” Allen said.
Nothing came easily for Forest Park, which was coming off a 49-35 victory over G.W.-Danville and a 74-31 win over Albemarle. Freshman Monica Wright had a team-high eight points. Sophomore guard Courtney Portell had seven points, while freshman Ashleigh Braxton and junior Kianta Johnson finished with six points each.
“We knew we had to get it done with defense,” Henderson said. “We were intense the whole time and it carried over. We were ready for this.
“It was a lot of work. We put ourselves in a position to play back-to-back games and travel,” she continued. “But in a way it was good for us.”