There was something a bit unusual about Hayfield’s first half in its state semifinal game against South Lakes. It trailed for much of it.
As was expected, the defending state champion Hawks dominated their opponents all season, but the gritty and determined Seahawks came ready to play on Friday at Westfield High.
The lead changed hands seven times as Hayfield watched two of its key players untypically find themselves in foul trouble.
But per usual, Hayfield used a big third quarter to seize control and win, 71-59.
And what has become the usual, it finds itself in another state final. The Hawks (29-1, only loss to a DC school) will take on Patriot at 8 p.m. in Friday’s Class 6 State Championship at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
Hayfield outscored its opponents by an average of 23 points this season but led by just 36-35 after South Lakes scored the first basket of the third quarter. But it then found, what 10th-year coach Carlos Poindexter called, “two more gears” to assume control.
“We’re the most in-shape team in Virginia,” he said.
An 11-0 run in the third quarter gave it just the cushion it needed thereafter as star seniors Greg Jones and David King each were plagued with foul trouble, each picking up their fourth foul in the third quarter.
“The third quarter is always our quarter – it has been all year,” King said.
King finished with 28 points (18 in the first half) and was the main focus of both teams’ plans.
And why not: When these teams met in this round a year ago (Hayfield won, 67-48) he played a key role.
Poindexter said he expected to face the Seahawks’ customary back-court trapping, telling his players to dribble and come to jump stops, then to look for King inside.
“If we could dish it to [King], we knew he could eat all night,” Poindexter said.
King said he practiced individually this week on breaking double-teams, thinking “South Lakes would be double-teaming me.”
King was triple-teamed when he made the decisive basket of the game, a put-back underneath while drawing a foul for a three-point play that gave his team a 66-55 lead with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter.
That basket stopped multiple, mini-comeback runs by South Lakes (25-4), including when the Seahawks cut what had been a 13-point deficit to four on a Sol Vita three-pointer late in the third quarter.
“We had a better effort than last year,” Seahawks coach Mike Desmond said. “But it wasn’t enough. Our plan was to stay with King and box him out all the time, but that didn’t happen when our guys were getting beaten off the dribble.
“The third quarter killed us, but it was more than Hayfield’s play. It was our play. We had bad possessions and took quick shots. That wasn’t in our game plan.”
Jordan Scott kept his team in contention, scoring 21 points (15 in the first half) to go with six blocked shots.
“We just wanted to eliminate his catches,” Poindexter said. “He’s a great player. We defended him well, especially in the second half.”
Teammate Aiden Billings plugged away underneath and scored 18 points, including going six-for-six from the foul line.
Vita left the game early with an ankle injury and tried to play through it in the second half but limped to the bench before re-entering later to score 10 points thereafter.
King said his team’s bench play and showing the maturity to perform with him and Jones on the bench for a long stretch in the second half was crucial. Jones fouled out with 1:10 left in the game, scoring just six points.
Hawks guard D.J. Holloway played a steady game at both ends, including 13 points with two early three-pointers.
“South Lakes was more prepared for us this year,” Holloway said. “But we just stuck with our stuff – like playing great defense. We got great bench play, especially from Andy Ramirez Novas and Braelen Cage. Our bench is deeper than it was last year [when the Hawks went 32-0]. It’s been an amazing four-year run for our seniors. To win the state title again would be amazing.”