Cava­liers take an­other step by pick­ing their spots

W.T. WOOD­SON 45, LANDSTOWN 43

The Washington Post Sunday - - ALLMETSPORTS.COM - BY JA­COB BOGAGE ja­cob.bogage@wash­post.com

W.T. Wood­son’s march to the Vir­ginia 6A state championship game started dur­ing the spring prac­tice of 2016, se­nior guard Ja­son Aigner said.

The Cava­liers had the tal­ent. Aigner could shoot the ball out of the gym. Matthew Ur­bach was a ca­pa­ble swing­man. Si­mon Mu­laa at point guard and Nate Spur­lock in the post gave them an in­sid­e­out­side game.

“It was there for us, if we wanted it,” Aigner said.

But maybe it started decades ear­lier. Be­fore Satur­day’s 45-43 tri­umph over Landstown (Vir­ginia Beach), Wood­son had never been to a state championship, even af­ter trips to the state semi­fi­nal four of the last five sea­sons, af­ter Red Jenk­ins turned this school into a bas­ket­ball jug­ger­naut over 34 years as head coach.

Now, the Cava­liers have punched their ticket to Rich­mond.

“It’s a long time com­ing,” Coach Doug Craig said.

At the buzzer, he turned and ran down his bench, arms raised, scream­ing into the rafters at Robin­son Sec­ondary School in Fairfax. Aigner ran from cen­ter court and jumped into an as­sis­tant coach’s arms, coat­ing the as­sis­tant’s blazer in a sweaty glaze.

Landstown was faster than Wood­son — and stronger.

Sopho­more guard Michael Christ­mas might be the most highly cov­eted un­der­class­man pub­lic school re­cruit in the com­mon­wealth.

Wood­son (25-6) found a way to play through all that.

Mu­laa slowed the game’s pace to a crawl at times. Aigner ha­rassed Christ­mas into 5-for-17 shoot­ing — “Some­times it has to be a de­fen­sive game,” Craig said — and the Cavs found op­por­tune times to strike.

Spur­lock led Wood­son with 12 re­bounds, and the Cava­liers beat the Ea­gles on the boards 36-26.

He jousted with Christ­mas for a cru­cial de­fen­sive re­bound with two min­utes to play and passed to Ur­bach, who broke Landstown’s press and found Aigner, who has called wide-open three­p­oint­ers “layups” in the past, alone be­hind the arc.

In­stead, he drib­bled the ball out and ran time off the clock.

HYLTON 71, WESTERN BRANCH 64: Few thought the Bull­dogs would find a way to the 2017 Vir­ginia 6A state fi­nal, least of all Coach Barry Smith. Hylton lost 10 se­niors from a year ago. Smith thought they would fight to win their re­gion.

Then se­nior for­ward Dwayne Hill led the Bull­dogs through the first two rounds of the state tournament.

They’re headed to Rich­mond now af­ter knock­ing off Western Branch (Ch­e­sa­peake) at Robin­son.

Hill scored a team-high 30 points. Hylton (21-9) took a 10-point lead in the first quar­ter and never again fell be­hind.

PETE MAROVICH FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

W.T. Wood­son’s Si­mon Mu­laa brings the ball up­court dur­ing the fourth quar­ter. Mu­laa slowed the game’s pace to help the Cava­liers pre­vail.

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