All locals to battle it out


[email protected]

WOODBRIDGE — The Prince William Invitational, more commonly known as the Group AAA, Northwest Region boys basketball tournament, continues today at 7 p.m. on the east side and west side of the county.

In the quarterfinal round, area teams went 4-0 against schools from a wide swath of the state — Charlottesville, Culpeper, Roanoke and South Boston. Therefore, tonight’s semifinals feature familiar matchups with Gar-Field playing at Stonewall Jackson and Woodbridge visiting Potomac.

All four schools were in the Cardinal District until the 2001-02 academic year. Now, Stonewall and Potomac are in the four-team Cedar Run District but they still play home-and-home series with their old rivals.

Against the other three remaining regional teams, Potomac is 6-1. Woodbridge and Stonewall are 3-4, with Gar-Field 2-5, but Panther coach Kendall Hayes knows any of these teams can beat any of the others. In most cases, they have.

“I’ve been preaching all year long that I thought the basketball in this area was very good and very balanced,” Hayes said before Tuesday’s Potomac practice. “The quarterfinal results cemented that.”

In the regional quarterfinals, two Prince William teams (Potomac and Woodbridge) went on the road and won by at least 20 points. Meanwhile, a Stonewall team that was seeded last in its four-team Cedar Run District tournament and a Gar-Field team that was seeded third in the Cardinal District maintained their homecourt magic.

While the Panthers (20-4) were on their way to a 64-42 win at Albemarle on Monday night, Stonewall (12-12) took down Culpeper, 68-61, to get to the brink of its first state tournament. After falling three games below .500 for the only time this season by losing the regular-season finale, the Raiders beat Potomac and Osbourn Park to claim the Cedar Run tournament and then knocked off Culpeper — all at home, where tonight’s game with Gar-Field (16-8) will be played.

Gar-Field and Stonewall split their matchups this season, with the Indians winning by 20 at home after losing by one on the road.

“I’d say that [Stonewall’s] playing more as a team now than at the beginning of the season,” Gar-Field senior point guard Chris Doss said prior to his team’s practice after school Tuesday.

Gar-Field teammate Dee Howard, a senior forward, added of Stonewall, “It seems to me they’re motivated and they won’t give up.”

Tonight, Doss will take most of the burden of guarding Cedar Run player of the year Tyc Snow, the Raiders’ 5-foot-7 senior point guard who has averaged 20.7 points per game in the postseason.

“Coach Gray put it like that — like I’d be responsible for guarding Tyc,” Doss said. “But you really have to do it more as a team. Tyc’s quick and he has the ability to get to the rim. He’s got a good handle and he can shoot from long range.”

Stonewall’s players knew nothing about Culpeper until watching game film the day of Monday’s quarterfinal. The same can’t be said about tonight’s game, which will feature two district players of the year (Snow and Gar-Field junior guard Chris Vann) and two district coaches of the year (Stonewall’s Marcus Lawrence and Gar-Field’s Andy Gray).

Vann was a reserve on the 2001 team that lost in the state-championship game. This year, the Indians have won the Cardinal tournament and beat Patrick Henry-Roanoke in regional play.

“Vann’s all-everything, Howard’s a tremendous shooter and [freshman guard] Calvin Booth had a tremendous game in the district final,” Lawrence said of Gar-Field. “They’re all tough kids, and we know that quite well.”

Gar-Field lost its first four games against Stonewall, Potomac and Woodbridge this year but won two of the past three, including a 49-43 win over top-seeded Woodbridge in the Cardinal final on Feb. 25 at Gar-Field.

By losing in their district playoffs, the Vikings (17-9) and Potomac had to win on the road in the first round of regionals. Woodbridge rolled at Halifax County on Saturday night, 76-56, behind 21 points from junior guards Chris Kendall and Dan Fountain. Their shooting — and that of the Panthers’ Eric Hayes and Bryan Butler — could be keys tonight at Potomac. In the regular season, the Panthers beat Woodbridge by 14 on the road and seven at home.

Woodbridge has been to this exact round of the regionals eight of the past nine seasons, losing each time (including four to Potomac). The Panthers are coming off a season in which they were regional runners-up to Cave Spring and current Duke guard J.J. Redick. The Knights, now in Group AA, eventually won their first state championship.

“There is no GW-Danville or Cave Spring this year that’s way above everyone else,” Kendall Hayes said, alluding to the 1996, 1998 and 2002 state champions from the Northwest Region. “I’m sure all four teams still involved think they’re the team to beat. It’s hard to argue for or against any of them.”

The winners of tonight’s games will meet in Thursday night’s Northwest Region final in the gym of the Gar-Field/Stonewall winner. Both regional finalists will play against Central Region teams (George Wythe and Highland Springs) in Saturday’s state quarterfinals.

Similar Posts