IWA ends season with finals loss

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, March 6, 2010

ETTRICK–Trailing by nine points at halftime of Saturday’s Virginia Independent Schools Division III boys’ basketball championship game, Tidewater Academy switched defenses.

The Warriors’ half-court press held rival Isle of Wight Academy to 16 points in the second half as TA knocked off the Chargers 57-48 to claim the school’s first-ever state championship.

Early in the third quarter, IWA tried to slow the game down but had trouble converting baskets. Tidewater’s half-court press defense allowed the Warriors to get into fast-break mode, which proved deadly for the Chargers. The Warriors outscored IWA 15-6 in the third period to tie the game at 38-38. The quarter included an 8-0 run by the Warriors, all four buckets coming on fast breaks.

In the fourth quarter, the game remained close. The Warriors were finally able to pull away in the final minute. A three-pointer by Casey Rickmond with 1:59 to play gave Tidewater the lead for good at 49-48. Tidewater’s Mike Greene then came up with a steal and Tommie Starkes followed with a drive to put the Warriors up 51-48.

On the other end, Isle of Wight’s Brandon Privette missed on a drive with 43 seconds to play and Daniel Brown fouled Tidewater’s Austin Westbrook. The free-throw parade began as the Warriors scored the final six points of the game at the foul line.

Tidewater Academy head coach Walter Westbrook said he pressed when IWA began to stall. Westbrook used a half-court press in a game last week to cut a huge deficit.

“I tried a three-man man-to-man and they held the ball. I had a backup plan,” Westbrook said. “Last Saturday night we lost by one point to Steward School and we were down 17 at the half. What that game taught is that we could come back. That’s what won the game last night, and that’s what won the game today. Once we got it down to three or four, I felt pretty good about it.”

Benjamin Vaughan, IWA head coach, acknowledged that his team had trouble with the press.

“We never did handle that press well until about halfway through the fourth quarter,” he said. “We talked about it at halftime. We knew it was coming. It didn’t catch us by surprise, but they played it so well we had trouble adjusting to it.”

Unlike in a Friday semifinal victory, the Chargers started out fast.

Early in the first quarter, Isle of Wight brought its shooting game, while Tidewater left its shooting game in Wakefield. With 3:02 left in the quarter, Isle of Wight took a 12-5 lead on a three-pointer by Chris Parrish. The Warriors, though, were able to get into the flow of the offense and cut the IWA lead to 12-10 on a 3-pointer by Rickmond with 56 seconds to play in the first quarter.

The second quarter saw more of the same as IWA was able to exploit height mismatches for points early and then let the three-point shooters take over. Privette scored 14 points in the first half, including eight in the second quarter. Privette scored on back-to-back three-pointers to pump the IWA lead up to 32-19 with 1:08 to play in the half.

Tidewater came back with the final four points in the half on a jumper by Greene and a layup by Rickmond off a long bounce pass from Greene. Isle of Wight led 32-23 at the break.

Rickmond expressed his team’s happiness at finally winning a championship after coming close several years.

“It’s going to take a lot of time to sink in. We’re not used to coming out on top. We’re used to crying in the locker room after a semifinal loss,” he said.

Vaughan said he was proud of the way the Chargers played this year.

“You never assume from year to year you’re going to get this far. We had a good year the previous and had all five starters back. We anticipated we would do well,” Vaughan said. “You never know how they will gel and mesh together from one year to the next. As the year went on, we got stronger and stronger and played our best ball at the end of the year. We are extremely proud of how they played.”