SOUTH COUNTY (25-3) vs. BATTLEFIELD (21-9)
Time: 7:00 pm Tuesday
Location: Patriot HS
Radio: PW Sportz and Entertainment
Why South County will win: Quentin Millora-Brown is the best public school big man around, arguably the best big man (period) in NOVA. He knows when to get his teammates involved and knows when to take over. The Stallions are patient and comfortable to play at virtually any pace. Millora-Brown’s supporting cast is solid, with shooters and ball-handlers all around him in the starting lineup. Although coach Mike Robinson has shortened his rotation for the playoffs his team is very deep, with senior Seth Dunn and talented soph Xa’Vian Myles first off the bench. Team hasn’t lost in almost two months and was never seriously challenged at regionals.
Why Battlefield will win: There’s height, athleticism, shooting and senior experience across the board and no team has navigated a more difficult road than the Bobcats. Four-year starter Brayden Gault has the ability to get clutch points down the stretch and 6’6″ Bobcat center Austin Estridge has the size and savvy to limit Millora-Brown. He’s done a good job against other bigs at regionals. Battlefield isn’t quite as deep as it has been in previous years, but when you can afford to bring Julian Washington off the bench you’re in pretty good shape. Patriot isn’t home, but the Bobcats are very familiar with the gym.
What to expect: This is about the best state semi from NOVA you could ask for. It would be very surprising if the game isn’t very close. Both of these teams are capable of putting up a lot of points, but we expect the game to be won on defense and expect a game tonight in the 50’s, at highest low sixties. Always with South County their fortune rests on their three-point shooting and ability to clear space for Millora-Brown inside. If the Stallions’ shooters are on, it’s difficult to imagine them losing. The Bobcats can go up and down the floor as they did against Wakefield earlier this year, but we think they’ll generally try and control the ball and keep the game in the half-court. A wide-open game might give Millora-Brown too many touches and create too much space for the Stallions’ shooters. Both teams would highly benefit from drawing fouls on the other team’s bigs inside.
Our prediction: The game will hedge late on the teams’ two senior stars, Gault and Millora-Brown. Our head and our analytics says South County is the winner but we just kind of feel like Battlefield takes it. We’ll go with our feeling. Battlefield 59, South County 55
EDISON (21-8) vs. WAKEFIELD (23-6)
Time: 7:00 pm Tuesday
Location: Lake Braddock HS
Why Edison will win: Fifth time is the charm, right? If it’s hard to beat a talented team three times in one season it must be way harder to beat a team five times. The Eagles have lost four already to Wakefield this season but only lost by two points last time, and that was at Wakefield. This is at a neutral site–the Eagles have had to play three out of their four losses at Wakefield. The Eagles are hungry, not used to the success Wakefield has perhaps started to take for granted. Marquis Washington scored 29 points last time out against the Warriors and he may simply not accept a loss this time. He’s perhaps the perfect player to take into a game against Wakefield–a guard who can run, shoot, defend and rebound as well as a center.
Why Wakefield will win: Losing gets in your head, man. After blowing a lead late last time, does Edison simply not believe it can beat Wakefield? Is this is a case where everything Edison likes to do–run, play fast, get up threes–Wakefield just does slightly better? The Warriors have a tradition of and are used to winning big games under Tony Bentley. In their wins over the Eagles Washington and Jared Clawson have played good games for Edison, but Wakefield by far has gotten better total team efforts. Despite being similar teams that play a lot of guards, the Warriors do appear to have a productivity edge in the frontcourt with high-flying A’Mari Cooper and big guys like Robert Starkey. Wakefield’s bench is deeper than Edison’s as well.
What to expect: Edison seems to have learned that it can’t play its usual game and necessarily expect to best Wakefield in the 70’s or 80’s. They’ll try to duplicate last week’s regional final game in which the Eagles led late but couldn’t hang on. The Warriors are fine with their usual story, getting up and down the floor and pushing the pace. Edison certainly can do the same on occasion and will, but expect them to only do so selectively.
Our prediction: From a story standpoint we’d love to see Edison win. So many times victory and ultimate success is determined by past failures, and nothing would encapsulate this better than Edison finally getting over that Wakefield hump. Their confidence would be sky-high for the state final if they do it. The Eagles certainly have the talent to get it done, but it will take more of a balanced team effort than they’ve gotten in the previous games with Wakefield. We think Wakefield has too much balance and confidence to be deterred, however. It takes a lot of energy to play good team defense and the Warriors’ depth and ability to get to the line more makes them a better bet to prevail. Wakefield 71, Edison 64