It was a big day for Williamsburg Christian Academy coach Kenya Williams in more ways than one.
The Eagles are now one game away from winning their second straight boys basketball state title after beating Carlisle School 85-77 Friday at Virginia State University in Petersburg.
But his day started out even bigger when his wife gave birth to their second child, a son, at 3:53 a.m. at Sentara Williamsburg Medical Center. He went straight from the hospital to Petersburg and following the semifinal win, went back to the hospital to be with his wife and son. He’ll make the same drive to Petersburg again Saturday morning.
Da’Shawn Cook and Malachi Banks each had 20 points, while Ra’Shawn Cook had 18 and Cle’Von Greene 16 for the top-seeded Eagles in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III semifinal matchup.
Williams said he and his players had a renewed focus after losing to Hampton Christian Academy in the Metro Conference championship after having beaten that team twice in the regular season.
“We had to regain our focus to get back here,” Williams said. “We knew it was going to be a mental game coming down the stretch, and (Saturday) is going to be a mental game.”
WCA (28-7), which reached the semifinals after beating Amelia Academy 92-69 at home Wednesday, will play in Saturday’s championship game against No. 2 seed Christ Chapel Academy, which defeated No. 6 North Cross School 53-41 in the other semifinal.
Williams does not expect the Eagles to be overconfident going into Saturday’s championship game, as Christ Chapel Academy beat the Eagles 70-67 on Feb. 3.
Not only do the players want a second chance against Christ Chapel, two of his players, twin seniors Ra’Shawn and Da’Shawn Cook, have not received a college offer yet and are especially motivated to do well.
“For them to close out as champions and to not have offers yet, this would be big for them to land something at the completion of their season,” Williams said. “That’s a big chip on their shoulders — that’s why the Cook twins are playing the way theyre playing because they're unsigned and everyone is talking like, ‘Hey, you’re good,’ but no one has pulled the plug yet.”
Walsingham bows out of tourney in semis
In VISAA Division II boys basketball semifinal, No. 4 seed Walsingham Academy Friday fell to top seed Miller School of Albemarle (26-4) 65-50.
The Trojans finished their best-ever season at 26-3.
Walsingham trailed just 9-8 after the first quarter, but Miller went on a 10-0 run to start the second quarter and was up 27-16 at the half.
Miller maintained its lead in the second half.
Quarterfinal win for Walsingham
Jaylin Stewart’s asthma means he tires a little easier than most players.
But fortunately for Walsingham Academy, the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools’ most valuable player still had plenty left when it counted.
Stewart scored half of his game-high 30 points in the final eight minutes as the Trojans staved off a second half charge from Hargrave Military Academy for a 80-75 home win Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II boys basketball tournament.
Marcus Banks added 25 points and Philipp Walz 13 for the Trojans.
“All year long, these kids have had this tremendous will to win,” said Trojans coach Billy Barnes. “I wish I could say I taught them it, or something like that, but these guys, they just make plays, and they just keep going, and they were exhausted.”
Walsingham led by as many as 17 points in the first half, and were still up 39-25 at halftime. Hargrave (14-9), however, used its full court trap to good effect, causing turnovers that led to easy baskets.
The Tigers cut the Trojans’ lead in half by the end of the third quarter and twice tied the game in the fourth quarter, led by Benson Lin, who hit six 3-pointers, five of those coming in the second half. Lin was Hargrave’s leading scorer with 20 points.
“(Lin) was lighting us up,” Barnes said. “He was a good shooter. I didn’t think he could shoot like that, but he did, so hats off to him.”
But led by Stewart, the Tigers could never get back in front, and Walsingham solved Hargrave’s pesky trap.
The first time Hargrave tied the game — at 61-all with 5:36 in the fourth quarter — Stewart made one-of-two free throws to put Walsingham back in front. At the 4:43 mark, when it was tied again at 68-all, Stewart scored 11 of the Trojans’ next 13 points, and the Tigers never leveled the game or led again.
“Coach Barnes always tells me, ‘Keep going Stew, keep going,” Stewart said. “So tonight with my breathing messing up, I had to push through for my team.”
Still, with 17 seconds to go, the Walsingham lead was only 77-73 following a Stewart free throw when Sam Jones alertly stole the ball near midcourt as Hargrave was trying to preserve time on the clock by rolling the ball untouched off the inbounds pass.
“The possession before, I noticed he waited a long time to pick it up,” Jones said. “And then, it was close again, (so) I just went for it. I got the ball before he got to grab it.”
Walsingham had won 24 games in a row heading into the TCIS championship game, but the streak was broken with a 44-43 loss last Saturday to Norfolk Academy.
“The conference championship definitely hurt us, so we used that as motivation,” Stewart said. “We just came out how we knew we could play.”
At the beginning of the season, Walsingham didn’t even know whether it would have enough players to field a team. From there, the Trojans lost their opener before their winning streak which ended last Saturday.
They’ll settle for a three-game winning streak now — that would give them a state championship in what is already the best season in school history.
“Our core, we’ve been blessed we’ve been healthy all year,” Jones said. “We play really well together, we move the ball really well, we shoot the ball well … (and) we can guard most teams. We have a will to win.”