Johnny Corish scored 19 points, John Finney 15 and Nick Conforti 11 off the bench as the James Madison Warhawks won their first ever regional title Saturday night, 62-58 over W.T. Woodson.
It was easy to see early in the season the Warhawks had the makings of a good team, even in losses to Oakton and West Potomac. But especially considering Madison’s lack of size, not too many thought it could be this good.
“Usually at the beginning of the year we talk about expectations,” senior Daniel Gerke said. “And this year we just kind of forgot to have the conversation. Past few years at Madison we’ve really not gotten to the regional tournament. But once we got here we just kind of kept rolling with it. We kept saying ‘keep the mojo rolling’ and we did.”
Madison will try and keep that mojo rolling at the state tournament, but for now it’s a time for celebration. The Warhawks certainly deserved to celebrate after defeating a talented and similarly hard-working Cavaliers team that just would not quit.
The Warhawks led 17-10 after one quarter and 30-26 at halftime. But Woodson got a sensational night from senior guard Jason Aigner (23 points) and fought back hard. Down 36-29, Woodson went on a 6-0 run to close the gap to a point but couldn’t go ahead. Senior forward Riley Jorgenson scored to maintain the lead, and Corish hit a three as the third quarter ended to put Madison back up by six.
Madison (23-6) extended the lead to 49-40 in the final quarter before Woodson rallied again after coach Doug Craig went to a small lineup. An Aigner three-pointer, one of five on the night, brought Woodson to within 53-51 with 2:50 left. Strong play from the Warhawks’ bench maintained the lead yet again, however. Conforti answered with a lay-up, and a little later with Woodson ball and the Cavs trailing 56-54 reserve senior guard Patrick Kidd had a huge steal and bucket to get the lead back up to four points late.
Still the Cavaliers (23-6) wouldn’t go away, even after Corish’s steal and two free throws made it 60-54 with just 32 seconds left. The Warhawks missed some free throws and the Cavaliers attacked the rim with success. The Cavaliers found themselves with the ball and down 60-58 with under ten seconds left. However, Gerke impeded the path of Woodson’s Sean Nickel in the backcourt, forcing a turnover to seal the victory.
“I just got in front of the guy,” Gerke said. “Coach said no fouls–if they make a three to win the game they make a three to win the game, but we’re not putting them at the free throw line.”
As mentioned, Aigner was great for Woodson in the losing effort. Matt Urbach added 13 points and six rebounds and David Promisel was big off the bench with 11 points and three assists. The Cavaliers fought hard but it wasn’t enough against red-hot Madison, which won its eighth straight.
When asked to sum it all up, Gerke was almost overwhelmed.
“It’s pretty cool. Unbelievable, actually.”
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: Corish 2-3, Finney 1-1, Conforti 1-1, Gerke 1-3, Darab 0-1, Kidd 0-1, Jorgenson 0-2|
|Threes: Aigner 5-8, Urbach 1-7, Spurlock 0-2, Promisel 0-1, Hennessey 0-1|