Having nothing to lose against an undefeated, high-scoring and heavily-favored team, the Washington-Liberty Generals changed tactics a bit in their first-round state-tournament game.
The ploys worked to varying degrees, but the Generals (18-8) still lost, 59-51, to the host Hayfield Hawks (27-0) March 4 in a Virginia High School League Class 6 state-tourney boys basketball game.
The Generals played more deliberately on offense, with senior point guard Jakhi Beale running the attack in an attempt to control the clock and keep the score down. On defense, Washington-Liberty used more zone, playing a matchup 1-3-1 at times.
The 59 points were the second fewest Hayfield has scored in a game this season. The Hawks were averaging 81.1 points per outing in seven previous playoff contests this season.
“We defended well and did what we felt we needed to do in that game and we were right there,” Washington-Liberty coach Bobby Dobson said. “We gave them too many live-ball turnovers that turned into layups, and we didn’t make some shots we needed.”
The Generals took a 2-0 lead and the score was tied at 13 at the end of the first quarter.
“I asked our players at the end of the first quarter what they thought and if they believed now we could win. They all did,” Dobson said.
Hayfield was up 29-22 at halftime and 46-38 after three quarters. The Generals were within six points with 4:30 to play.
Starters James McIntyre, Elijah Hughes and Brian Weiser will be among Washington-Liberty’s top returners next season. Cedric Scheu and Matthew Evangelista will be other top returners.
The season was one of W-L’s best in years. In addition to the Generals’ 18 wins, they won the Liberty District regular season and tournament championships, and finished second in the 6D North Region tourney to earn the team’s second state berth in four seasons.
In addition, the Generals’ campaign included a 10-game winning streak, a 4-2 playoff record and a 13-1 mark against district rivals.
The Generals’ two postseason losses were to Hayfield and first to South Lakes in the region final, 56-47. Those two teams play in the Class 6 state semifinals.
“Our players were locked in and very focused all season, and played good basketball, “Dobson said. “They were tough physically and mentally, competed in every game and we were a tough team to deal with. The players did everything we asked.”
Dobson described the emotional scene in the locker room following the season-ending loss to Hayfield as “awesome to see.”
“Yes, it was very emotional,” Dobson said. “It showed the players’ passion and how much they didn’t want the season to be over, and how much they cared. It was very heartfelt.”
NOTES: Washington-Liberty’s first-round state-tournament loss to eventual state co-champion and heavily-favored South County two seasons ago was by a similar 56-51 score compared to this season’s setback . . . The Generals were 4-0 against Arlington rivals Wakefield and Yorktown this season, something that had not happened in many years.