Spotswood’s Tucker McCoy rises up to the basket as Turner Ashby’s Taylor Corbin defends. (Photo by Michael Reilly)
PENN LAIRD – With the Valley District tournament championship on the line, Spotswood High School coach Chad Edwards played “the numbers game” and stuck to his guns, even after Turner Ashby’s lesser-known shooters sank seven 3-pointers in the first half.
“Quite frankly, that was our game plan,” Edwards said. “They made me look like an idiot.”
Keying on TA’s top three shooters and planting two other defenders in the paint, Edwards basically dared Angel Bravo and Brenan Hanifee to hit shots from the outside. They could and they did – but it wasn’t enough to beat the Blazers, who got scoring from all 10 of their players.
Junior guard Tucker McCoy sank four 3-pointers of his own and finished with a game-high 20 points as Spotswood beat the Knights 74-64 in front of a packed home gymnasium Friday night, becoming the only Region III team this year to win both its district’s regular season and tournament championships.
The Trailblazers (24-1) earned a bye in next week’s Region III, Division 3 tournament and will play the winner of Rustburg-Rockbridge County at home on Wednesday as the No. 1 seed. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 8 p.m.
Senior Hyrum Weiler, a versatile guard, was named Valley District Player of the Year and Edwards was named Coach of the Year.
“It feels good because last year I didn’t even make second team, so I think I’ve come a long way,” said Weiler, who had 11 points in the final. “… I wouldn’t be here without my teammates giving me good passes and finishing when I give them passes. You know, really, we all should’ve won district Player of the Year. All of us.”
In its second-closest district game of the season, Spotswood held a 39-33 halftime lead largely on the strength of McCoy, who scored 15 of his 20 points in the first two quarters. Points off takeaways also hurt TA, including a steal and immediate buzzer-beating jumper by senior substitute Seth Hinkle that closed the first quarter.
“We didn’t underestimate their shooting,” McCoy said. “We just had to keep playing hard and keep scoring the way we were doing and we kept winning and playing defense.”
TA’s 3-point party stalled significantly after the break, as Bravo missed an early attempt to keep his hot hand going. The Knights (14-11) managed just one 3-pointer, by Brown, in the second half.
Bravo led TA with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Hanifee added 13, while Brown and Layman each added 12 for the Knights, who will now have to travel to face fourth-seeded Lord Botetourt in the Region III, Division 4 quarterfinals Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Had TA won or Lord Botetourt lost on Friday, the Knights would have hosted a regional game.
“I knew that before the game, but I didn’t tell our guys,” Seibert said. “I didn’t think they really needed any extra motivation for this one.”
Intensity was palpable and the pace was fast for all four quarters, with both teams executing at a championship level. But a defensive third quarter – Spotswood allowed just eight points – boosted the Blazers, who were playing without starting guard Khalil Davis.
Davis, the spark for Spotswood’s torrid pace, suffered an ankle injury late in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Fort Defiance, but Edwards expressed hopefulness for his possible return, especially given the extra two days rest with the bye.
“Without Khalil and Cole Lokey – they’re our two quickest defenders – so we were lacking a little bit of quickness, but we made up for it with intensity. I could not be more proud of our together. That’s our mantra. The kids get tired of hearing it. But I don’t know of many teams who are missing two of their top seven and were able to come out with a double-digit win.”
Senior forward Austin Nicely chipped in 16 points for SHS.
Bravo, Hanifee and Jonathan’s Keppel (nine points) accounted for 40 of TA’s 64 points. The trio that does not normally shoulder the offensive load also scored 27 of TA’s 33 first-half points.
“We were ready for that challenge,” Seibert said. “The more times we’re in that position, the easier it becomes. We’re still learning on the fly a little bit.”
As the Blazers banked another district tournament championship – their third in five years – Nicely brought the hardware into the huddle to pair it with a regular-season trophy and offered up a celebratory message to his teammates.