Friday night in the state title game the Hayfield Hawks were out-rebounded. Their Occoquan Region Player of the Year was 1-11 from the field. They only made one three-pointer the entire game. They scored 23 points under their average on offense. They shot 34% from the field as a team.
And they are, for the second consecutive year, state champions.
The offense might not have been there for Hayfield in the Hawks’ highly-anticipated title bout against Patriot at VCU, but their defense sure was. It was enough to earn the Hawks a 52-41 win and another magnificent finish to a memorable season.
“It was really about defense,” Hayfield Coach Carlos Poindexter said. “These guys are different. We didn’t have our A-game and still won by 10.”
It was a close game most of the way, albeit uneven, as both teams played physical defense to take the other team out of its offensive rhythm. Neither team could get anything going from outside–a three-pointer early from Patriot’s Dezmond Hopkins was all the Pioneers could get from beyond the arc all night. Hayfield was the same way, as Jahleel Jackson’s three-pointer in the second half was all the Hawks could manage from downtown.
The game hardly resembled the game the teams played in December, a game won by Hayfield in which each scored over 70 points. On this night the Hawks forced more turnovers (20) than the Pioneers did (10). Despite getting out-rebounded, they still got to the line more, also getting Patriot junior big man Isaiah Vick in foul trouble and limiting his minutes.
“They’re a very physical team,” said Patriot coach Sherman Rivers, whose team finished 25-4. “We just didn’t make enough shots. We just didn’t finish…we’ve been killing people with points in the paint. They [our bigs] were highly effective today–when they were on the court.”
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Poindexter. “We forced 11 turnovers from their starting backcourt…I feel like in the second half we were able to get turnovers…keep getting stops.”
Hayfield (30-1) took the first two quarters by the same margin, 12-10, to lead at halftime, 24-20. Senior David King wasn’t completely dominant on offense, but he was effective, registering eight points and six boards in the first half.
In the second half, with Patriot’s bigs somewhat limited by foul trouble, Hayfield’s experienced lineup got to the rim enough to seal the victory. Senior Donovan Bass-Briscoe, who was especially effective attacking the basket, led the way with 14 points, eight in the second half.
The Hayfield starters, all seniors, did their part on offense as well. John Awoke added nine points and Greg Jones eight, while the junior Jackson was the only player on either team off the bench to score.
“I thought Jahleel gave us a nice spark off the bench,” Poindexter said. “Once he hit that three I knew we were going to win.”
DJ Holloway, the Occoquan Region Player of the Year, only had two points on the aforementioned 1-11 shooting. That didn’t mean he wasn’t a major factor in the game, however, with his defense, leadership, and ball-handling ability.
“I didn’t have my best game,” Holloway said. “I just tried to be there for my teammates with my defense and leadership.”
Holloway, King, and Jones, who have been in the Hayfield program since they were freshmen, aren’t really used to winning ugly, like they did Friday night, but they leave Hayfield extremely used to winning in general. The last three years on varsity, the trio enjoyed a 75-3 combined record.
“This is such a great run for us,” said a reflective Jones. “The final moment of our high school careers.”