Vikings wrap up Cardinal crown

WOODBRIDGE — During a timeout with less than three minutes left in his team’s game against Hylton on Tuesday night, Woodbridge coach Will Robinson sent a loud-and-clear message of what he wanted the Vikings to accomplish.

After a late fourth-quarter turnover in a 68-56 home victory for Woodbridge, Robinson made a point that was audible to anyone in the gymnasium. This performance wasn’t just about knocking off a hot Hylton team, and it took a regional level of play to walk away as district regular-season champions.

“We’re not playing to hold on to the game and beat Hylton,” he echoed in the post-game interviews. “We’re focused on trying to get to the regional tournament.

“I was pretty happy with the way we responded.”

Woodbridge (15-5 overall, 5-0 in the Cardinal District) has done just that, extending its string of regional trips to 13. Hylton (12-6, 2-3) will have to win next week’s district tournament — or meet Woodbridge in the final — to reach the Group AAA, Northwest Region tournament.

Tuesday night, the Vikings extended their winning streak to five games and ended Hylton’s at six. On the strength of wins over Potomac, formerly the area’s top-ranked team, Woodbridge was ranked first in the area and Hylton second entering their second matchup of the season.

Center/forward Tyrice Watkins and guard Jeff Allen were two of four seniors starting in their final home game for the Vikings (along with guard Derek King and forward Vincent Driver).

Watkins finished with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, dominating the interior and helping force Hylton’s offense to a perimeter-oriented attack. Allen compiled 11 points and a game-high seven assists.

“We never really got into sync offensively,” Hylton first-year coach Kevin Brown said. “Their defense didn’t let us do what we normally do.”

With four seconds left in the third quarter, Hylton fell behind 48-37 on a layup by Driver. Then, Bulldog point guard Lee Butler banked in a heave from midcourt to close the gap to eight. Butler wound up scoring a game-high 21 points.

Woodbridge turned the ball over on its first four possessions of the second half, leading to six Hylton points to cut the margin to 48-46.

Viking sophomore guard Daniel Fountain, who led his team with 16 points, made four free throws and a layup to push the lead back to eight. Allen then scored on a transition layup and on a backdoor cut to nearly put the game away. Still, Robinson had his say after Hylton’s Curtis Granby’s stickback made the score 60-51 with 2:17 to go.

Watkins then scored on a follow-up and Hylton couldn’t get the deficit back into single digits.

“I figured I had to rebound — they have a bunch of leapers,” Watkins said. “We didn’t want to come in here half-stepping like we did against Stonewall [in Woodbridge’s most recent loss.] We couldn’t just think we’d beat them because we did the first time.”

Hylton, which had lost all 25 of its meetings with Potomac before beating the Panthers last month, is now 0-22 against Woodbridge.

“We know that our day will come,” Robinson said. “We just didn’t want it to come tonight.”

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