Goal: Stop SHS

TA Boys, BHS Girls Eye Big Upsets

Posted: February 15, 2013

BRIDGEWATER — Chad Seibert sat a table outside the Turner Ashby High School gymnasium Thursday afternoon and pantomimed the molding of Play-Doh to explain how the TA boys’ basketball team has gone from just five wins last season to the Valley District tournament championship game in 2012-13.

The improvement seems sudden. It wasn’t.

“It seemed like it happened overnight, but it didn’t. I know everything that went into it,” said Seibert, in his second season coaching the Knights. “But it boils down to something I tell them all the time: How you do anything is how you do everything.”

And the Knights — who face Spotswood at SHS at 8 p.m. today for the district title — have done everything. Seibert started an AAU program. He’s held offseason workouts, gone to team camps at places like Virginia Tech and recruited elementary schools to build TA basketball into an organization.

“When you put that kind of work in, and you invest blood, sweat and tears into something, you tend not to just roll over and die if the other team hits a big shot or two, or the ref makes a bad call, or the coach gets in your face about something,” Seibert said. “You tend not to just give up when you come in at 6 in the morning and you went to Virginia Tech and you played 11 games in 2½ days and slept in a dorm room that was 100 degrees. When you put in that kind of work, you tend to fight for something.”

Now, the Knights are in the district title game for the first time since 2006. If they win, it will be their first title since they won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003.

It’s the result of a program and attitude shift after a down period from 2007 until this season. TA (14-10) also has secured its first regional bid since 2008, when the then 2-21 Knights backdoored their way into regionals by winning a district tournament consolation game.

TA will play Lord Botetourt on Tuesday in the Region III, Division 4 tournament. The location is to be determined.

“You can definitely tell in the locker room and at practice; there’s more positive energy going around,” said senior guard Justin Layman, who leads the Knights, averaging 13.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. “… People are glad to be coming out and playing.”

Turner Ashby has made the title game with its defense. The Knights, who play a half-court man, have allowed 50 points in their last seven games and have given up 60 or more only twice this season.

But Spotswood (23-1), led by 18-point-a-game-scorers Hyrum Weiler and Tucker McCoy is as offensive as TA is defensive, shooting 49 percent from the floor. The Trailblazers, who also have a regional bid and are playing for their third district title in five seasons, went 2-0 against TA this season, winning 72-51 and 87-44.

“Obviously, we’ve got to play better against them,” Layman said.

n  Valley District Girls Title Game: Broadway vs. Spotswood

This and last season have been especially good for the Broadway girls’ basketball team, a program that, historically, hasn’t been a major factor.

In 2011-12, the Gobblers won the Region III, Division 4 title and went to the state tournament, losing in the quarterfinals to cap their best season in decades. Before last year, they hadn’t won a district game in four years.

Now, BHS (17-4) is making its second straight Valley District title-game appearance. It blew an 11-point lead to Spotswood with just over three minutes to play last year. But the Gobblers get a chance to redeem themselves today at 6 p.m. at SHS when they again face Spotswood (23-1) for the district championship. The Trailblazers have won two straight tournament titles.

“I hope we learned something, but I hope we learn something from every game,” said Broadway coach Bobby Mongold, whose team is 1-4 against SHS over the last two years (the Gobblers won 47-41 on Jan. 31, 2012). “There’s always something to learn. … We talk about this all time going in: Believe we can win instead of just hoping to win, so I think for us a lot of it is mental as much as physical.”

All four of BHS’s losses this season have been to the area’s top two teams: East Rockingham (which just had a 51-game winning streak snapped) and Spotswood. This year, Broadway lost 57-54 and 61-55 to the Blazers. Does this mean the Gobblers are due? Mongold isn’t taking any chances.

The third-year coach had a full (but not strenuous) practice Thursday.

“We didn’t beat and bang on each other,” Mongold said. “We only did a few things, five-on-five — a lot of it was walk-through stuff, and we talked about adjustments, stuff like that. Even though it was a full practice, it wasn’t like grueling, up and down the floor.”

Mongold said his focus with Spotswood was its ability to run its offense and force opponents into errors.

“They execute their stuff better than anybody in the area,” he said. “… And the second thing that concerns me, and maybe even more important than the execution stuff — at least you can prepare a little for that — but they capitalize on your mistakes really, really well.”

Both BHS and SHS have clinched regional bids.