Handley routs James Wood 86-66 for 2nd straight tourney crown
WINCHESTER — Sherando may have finished first in the regular season and Millbrook may have the reigning district player of the year, but on Friday night the Handley boys’ basketball team reminded everyone that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Behind a combined 40 points and 37 rebounds from senior Darion Robinson and junior Cameron Jackson, the Judges dominated fourth-seeded James Wood 86-66 to win the Northwestern District Tournament championship for the second year in a row.
“The guys earned this, because at one point in the year I didn’t think they’d be able to get this far,” said Handley coach Tommy Dixon. “As talented as they are, a lot of things just weren’t falling into place. But they showed tonight that when they listen and do what we’re asking them to do, we’re a hard team to beat.”
The No. 2 seed coming into the tournament, Handley (18-4) had to rally back in the second half of its semifinal win over Millbrook and then found a red-hot Colonels squad waiting in the finals.
James Wood (11-14), which beat Skyline in the play-in game, was coming off a shocking upset of top-seeded Sherando on Wednesday — a game in which it knocked down 15 3-pointers — and was playing its best basketball of the season.
But if it appeared as though the fourth-seeded Colonels were catching the Judges at just the right time, that theory went out the window pretty quickly.
After a back-and-forth first quarter finished with James Wood holding a 20-18, Handley asserted its dominance exactly where the Colonels are most vulnerable — in the paint.
Beginning with a layup by Robinson (20 points and 18 rebounds) on the opening possession of the second quarter, the Judges went on a 16-3 run that was as impressive as it was quick.
Sophomore Will Dearing hit a free throw, Jackson finished a three-point play and then scored again inside.
A 3-pointer from Colonel junior Cam Butler (12 points) stopped the momentum momentarily, but Robinson followed up a miss the next time down the court for Handley, then scored on a drive from the top of the key and Jackson (20 points and 19 rebounds) grabbed a rebound, scored and was fouled.
By the time Robinson sliced through the defense for yet another layup, the lead was 34-23 and it was obvious that James Wood had no answer inside.
“As soon as we realize that most teams can’t guard us in the post, and that even if we miss we should be able to get our rebound and go back up strong, I think it just makes us work hard,” said Jackson, who, along with Robinson, had a double-double by halftime.
A drive by senior Michael Carter and a three-point play by junior Ryland Williams (team-high 21 points) helped the Colonels head into halftime down only nine (40-31), but things quickly got out of hand in the third quarter.
Collapsing their defense to try and find some way to stop Jackson and Robinson, James Wood gave up open looks on the perimeter and the Judges made them pay.
Buster Wigley (13 points) connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, senior Jacob Rudolph hit one of his own and then Wigley buried another one to stretch the lead to 54-33 with more than five minutes still to play in the third quarter.
“Those [3-pointers] were big, they were confidence builders for me and I didn’t even shoot them,” Jackson said. “I love kicking it out to Buster and Jake because they hit all the time and it just opens thing up for us more on the inside and give us momentum.”
The Judges would stretch their lead to as much 24 in the second half and, although James Wood eventually closed to within 13 in the fourth quarter, were never really threatened the rest of the way.
The Colonels didn’t help themselves out, shooting just 32 percent from the field (25 for 79) and 24 percent from beyond the arc (10 for 42). It was stark contrast from their hot-shooting just two nights earlier and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“It was a poor shooting night all around, from the 3-point line, inside the arc and at the free-throw line,” said James Wood coach Al Smith, whose team also missed nine of 15 free throws. “And you put that on top of [Handley] just dominating the boards, it doesn’t make for a good night for us.”
For the games James Wood was out-rebounded 57-39 and gave up multiple second-chance points.
On one sequence in the second quarter Robinson missed a runner in the lane, got his own rebound and missed again, Jackson rebounded and missed, had a tip roll off the rim and into the arms of Robinson, who scored on a putback.
“You can have the [rebounding] position but it comes down to height and athleticism,” said 5-foot-11 Colonel senior Brett Lewin, who pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds while battling with the 6-foot-8 Jackson and 6-foot-5 Robinson for most of the night.
“I’m short and I’m white, I’m not the guy who’s going to be able to jump over you to get a rebound. I’ve got to get position, and at times I was getting position, but those guys can just go over the top of you and grab the rebound.”
James Wood will next travel to take on Loudoun County in the Region II, Division 4 playoffs and Handley will host Fluvanna County in the Region II, Division 3 playoffs on Tuesday.
Dixon said that there are still things to work on, but he liked what he saw from his team Friday.
“We’re rebounding well, we’re starting to play a little better defense and we’re moving the ball on offense,” Dixon said. “A lot of things are starting to pick up at the right time.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1