Gar-Field takes over


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DALE CITY — Though separated by a four-hour bus ride, Gar-Field and Patrick Henry-Roanoke developed a rivalry with a pair of competitive games this season. The Indians were able to win both times.

More than two months after winning a holiday-tournament game in PH’s home territory, Gar-Field opened the Group AAA, Northwest Region tournament with a 59-53 home win over the Patriots on Saturday night. The Indians will play in the regional semifinals, either at Stonewall Jackson or at home against Culpeper, on either Tuesday or Wednesday night.

For Gar-Field (16-8), junior guard Chris Vann scored 19 points and senior forward Dee Howard had 13 of his 18 in the first half. PH, which finished 17-7, had won nine in a row before losing the Western Valley District tournament final to Halifax County and falling at Gar-Field.

“Physically it was the same old story,” said Gar-Field coach Andy Gray, who considered his team less athletic than the Patriots. “It looks like King Kong against Curious George, but we battle.”

Both Gray and coaching counterpart Jack Esworthy had their mind on family matters as well as the game.

Gray’s wife, Jean, broke her collarbone and had a gash above her eye after being involved in a two-car accident on Westridge Road on Saturday. She was home Saturday night. According to coach Gray, a car pulled out in front of his wife’s vehicle.

Meanwhile, the end of the season for Esworthy means he’ll leave today for Fort Eustis, near Williamsburg, to be activated as a major in the U.S. Army. Esworthy’s reserve unit has been preparing for a possible war in Iraq since Jan. 17. Esworthy’s commander gave him approval to finish coaching the season for the Patriots.

PH led after three quarters, 44-39, until the Indians went on a 9-2 run to take the lead. Junior forward Greg Tekampe scored on a baseline drive before the Patriots’ Andre Brewer, who finished with a team-high 13 points and game-high 13 rebounds, made a 12-foot jump shot. Then, Howard connected on a 3-pointer, Vann made a layup and Tekampe added two free throws.

The Patriots would tie the game at 48 on a Brian Epperly layup, but Howard’s rising jump shot with 3:21 left gave Gar-Field the advantage for good at 50-48.

“We had a 19-point lead against Halifax [in the district final] and let that slip, so we weren’t able to stay at home,” Esworthy said. “I thought we played well on the road tonight against a good team; I really did. That four-hour bus ride takes a little out of you, and I thought that showed.”

In the fourth quarter, Tekampe scored five of his seven points, drew two charges and assisted on Howard’s 3-pointer.

On Dec. 28, Vann and Howard each had 23 points in a 64-56 win in Salem Civic Center to finish third place in Cave Spring High School’s tournament.

“I think it’s just coincidence that I played well in both games,” Howard said. “But maybe it’s something about them because all my shots just fell. Because we had already beaten them once, we thought we had the upper hand and we played with confidence.”

The 6-foot-6 Howard, whose versatility ranges from taking the opening tap to making four 3-pointers in a regional quarterfinal, “gives teams problems matchup-wise,” said Vann, a 5-11 shooting guard. “Whoever we play tries to guard him with a big man, but he can handle the ball, shoot and defend. By the time they switch, it’s too late.”

WOODBRIDGE 76, HALIFAX COUNTY 56: Woodbridge had the hot hand Saturday in the first round of the Group AAA Northwest Region Tournament.

The Vikings hit eight 3-pointers and were 22 for 26 from the free-throw line. Daniel Fountain and Chris Kendall each had 21 points and three 3-pointers as Woodbridge (17-9) advanced to the regional semifinals.

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