JAMES CITY — Coach Donovan Bridgeforth is never shy about stating the goals for his Jamestown boys basketball program. He made it clear, even last year when observers might have thought him overambitious, the Eagles aimed to win a state championship.
So it is understandable that with a deep Group 4A playoffs run in mind, his team began to casually walk off the floor Tuesday following a Bay Rivers District regular season championship-clinching win over Grafton. They had to be reminded there was a trophy waiting for them after the 58-47 victory that gave Jamestown (19-2, 17-0 BRD) its first Bay Rivers title in 10 years.
Bridgeforth needed no reminders. Emotion was evident in his voice as the third-year Eagles coach, a former Walsingham Academy and Williamsburg Christian Academy girls coach, and former Lafayette and Jamestown standout, reflected on his personal journey after he led a raucous midcourt celebration with his team.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s an amazing feeling,” Bridgeforth said. “People just don’t know how hard and what we went through to get here. They really don’t know. I’m so happy to be here. I remember not even being able to get a coaching job. To win in a league that you supposedly couldn’t even coach in – and when I got the job, people said, ‘He won’t last or they will never do it.’ So it’s a great feeling.”
“Since June, he’s been telling us we’re the best team and nobody can beat us if we play how we play,” Jamestown senior Ryan Jones said. “To get this one, it’s satisfying to know if we follow the coach, he’s going to lead us down the right path.”
Tuesday’s game was a perfect illustration of how difficult it is to finish a Bay Rivers slate unbeaten. The Eagles, coming off a hard-earned win Friday at second-place Smithfield, can accomplish that by beating York on Thursday.
Beating Grafton was no cakewalk on Senior Night as Michael Schmidt was honored for reaching 1,000 career points and 500 rebounds, and twin brothers Mason and Evan Wang were recognized for 1,600 combined career points.
Grafton trimmed a Jamestown lead to four points near the end of the third quarter, but the Eagles used a 15-0 run, spanning the third and fourth periods, to seal it.
Jamestown held the Clippers without a basket for 5:11 during the stretch.
Evan Wang led the Eagles with 18 points, shooting 3-for-5 from 3-point range, and Kiran Durant paced Grafton with 21 points, most of which came on drives to the bucket or his 5-for-6 performance at the foul line.
Diamante Brown gave Jamestown a lift off the bench in the fourth quarter with aggressive offensive play, slashing inside for six points.
Schmidt, who scored 10 points, controlled the boards for the Eagles and Mason Wang had 11 points including a 3-pointer from the left wing and a free throw that pushed Jamestown’s lead to 45-37 entering the fourth quarter.
“It’s definitely tough,” Schmidt said of the Bay Rivers grind. “You have to play every team twice and that means you have to show up every game. I know Smithfield this year was riding our tail. They weren’t slipping up and luckily, we didn’t either.”
JAMESTOWN 58, GRAFTON 47
Grafton: Durant 21, Moore 12, Hawkins 12, Bombay 2.
Jamestown: Schmidt 10, Ry. Jones 4, E. Wang 18, M. Wang 11, Devine 7, Brown 6, Garret 2. Totals 24 4-7 58.
GRAFTON 9 11 17 10 – 47
JAMESTOWN 12 18 15 13 – 58
3-point goals: Grafton 4 (Hawkins 4); Jamestown 6 (E. Wang 3, M. Wang 2, Ry. Jones).