UPDATE: SHS downs BHS to win second straight state title
RICHMOND – Tayler Dodson’s right ankle suddenly became the center of attention during the final game of her high school basketball career.
Fortunately for heavily favored Spotswood, the injury didn’t keep the Trailblazers from winning another state title Thursday afternoon, despite a strong effort from an opponent they had already beaten four times this season.
Credit SHS’s accuracy at the foul line – and huge games from Dodson and junior guard Elizabeth Dofflemyer.
Spotswood made 14 of 14 free throws during the second half to beat Broadway 56-49 for the 3A girls’ basketball championship in front of a vocal crowd at VCU’s Siegel Center.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the state, but they proved they are the No. 2 – and it’s close,” SHS coach Chris Dodson said.
Tayler Dodson crumpled toward the floor near half court as Broadway’s Brianna Zook opened the fourth quarter with a momentum-swinging three-point play to pull the Gobblers within 37-36. BHS eventually tied the game at 39-39 with 4:29 left.
Then back came Dodson.
Appearing to be in plenty of pain, Dodson checked herself into the game at the 4:10 mark, and the Trailblazers responded with seven unanswered points – the first basket on a layup from Dodson – to repel the Gobblers’ threat and take another trophy home to Penn Laird.
It was Spotswood’s second straight state title and the third in program history dating back to 2005.
Dofflemyer led the Blazers (27-1) with 19 points, going 8-of-11 on free throws with 1,150 fans looking on.
Dofflemyer had no doubt that Dodson would return.
“We were just trying to keep our composure,” said Dofflemyer, who had a team-best 45 points in the two-game state tournament. “We knew she was strong, and we knew she would be back in the game and not want to sit on the bench. She would definitely want to play in her last high school game no matter what.”
Despite continuously limping after rolling her ankle, Dodson sparked SHS upon re-entering, wincing as she scored the tie-breaking basket inside to put the Blazers up 41-39. Moments later, the George Mason-bound senior forward drew a charge on the other end against Broadway’s leading scorer, Zook, snatching away Broadway’s momentum.
“I know adrenaline takes over sometimes in events like this,” Gobblers coach Bobby Mongold said of Dodson’s injury. “We talk to our girls about adrenaline, how people can pick cars up off of other people and such. Easily said: It’s her senior year. She’s not going to not come back in the ball game.”
Coach Dodson said it wasn’t the first time his daughter played hurt in a big game.
“She broke her ankle in AAU one year,” he said. “Just a stress fracture. We just taped her up and played her and played the national tournament with it and booted her after that.
“I knew she would crawl out there, if she had to, to play. She’s a tough nut. I knew she’d be back.”
Dodson rolled her ankle in transition while getting back on defense.
“It hurt when I first rolled it, but I thought I could walk it off,” she said. “So I tried. Then, it wasn’t getting any better so I sat down. I wasn’t going to let her tape me because I was trying to get back in as quick as possible, but my aunt came down and made the trainer tape me and I went in. It still hurts, but there’s nothing you can really do about it.”
With her team in the lead again after Dodson’s tie-breaking bucket, SHS senior guard Rachel Lindsay held the ball for a full minute on the outside, forcing the Gobblers to leave their zone defense and pressure her with 2½ minutes to go. Instead of a much-needed stop, BHS yielded a baseline drive and fouled Dofflemyer, who converted the three-point play to give SHS a 44-39 lead with 2:12 left.
The Blazers took care of the rest at the foul line, going 10-for-10 in the final 1:12.
Zook paced Broadway (22-6) with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Staging a fake Twitter fight with teammate McKenzie Jenkins the night before, Dodson combined with Jenkins for 30 points.
“I think if you’re too uptight, then that’s going to be a problem when you’re trying to play,” said Dodson, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. “…We seriously had like 50 people text us. Like our fans, our family, asking us, ‘Are you and [McKenzie] really fighting?’ They were so mad. They were like, ‘You can’t be doing this right before a state championship game.’”
Coach Dodson found out just before a team dinner and laughed about it. Tayler Dodson ended the fiasco by posting a photo of her hugging McKenzie.
Fun and games off the court became a serious fight to the finish Thursday in Spotswood’s fifth meeting with its longtime district rival. Broadway led 26-25 at halftime while instituting a new and effective matchup zone.
“Game plan-wise, they did a lot of different things,” Chris Dodson said of BHS, which fell to 0-5 against SHS this season. “I know it had to kill him to play zone against us, because he’s a basketball fundamentalist.
“…The officials called the game very close in the first half, which kind of forced us both into zones to stay out of foul trouble. Neither one of us adjusted very well.”
For Spotswood basketball fans, it had to feel like shades of Tucker McCoy, who tore his ACL on the same floor last week in an 84-80 state semifinal loss to George Wythe with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
He was unable to return to the game, but Tayler Dodson was more fortunate.
As the final buzzer sounded, Dodson smiled through the pain as she hobbled to the bench and was the first Blazer to drape a basketball net around her neck.
“There’s nothing better than going out like that,” Dodson said.