WINCHESTER — Sherando’s boys basketball team, which had tested Millbrook twice in a pair of two-possession losses during the regular season, held a lead at halftime of Thursday’s Class 4 Northwestern District tournament quarterfinal game against the top-seeded Pioneers. A decisive Millbrook run in the second half quelled the upset bid and brought the Warriors’ season to an end.
Down seven points midway through the third period, Millbrook used a 17-0 run that stretched into the early stages of the fourth quarter to take the lead and proceeded to hold off No. 8 Sherando for a 55-47 victory that sends the Pioneers into Tuesday’s semifinal game against No. 5 Fauquier, which knocked off No. 4 Liberty 67-42. Millbrook (17-6) hosts the Falcons (13-8) at 7:30 p.m.
“I don’t think anything really changed, I think we just finally settled in,” said Millbrook coach Steve Grubbs, whose team had already locked up a spot in the upcoming Region 4C tournament by winning the district’s regular-season title. “Looking at the first half, I think we played tight in those first couple minutes and stuff wasn’t falling and we’re not doing things that we’re supposed to do offensively. We were just kind of feeling everything out.
"I think the second half came and it was a little bit of a wake-up call going in [down] 26-24. I know they went on a big run again. I think it was 31-24 at one point, and then from that point on we kind of got back to our game, settled into what we were supposed to be doing and started attacking and being the aggressor for pretty much the rest of the game.”
Sherando (5-18) led for most of the first half — the Warriors trailed briefly late in the second period when Chris Oates’ bucket in the paint gave Millbrook (17-6) its first lead of the game with 1:30 left in the half — and took a 26-24 lead into halftime. That advantage grew to 31-24 after Darius Lane’s 3-pointer with 4:03 left in the third period before Millbrook’s Julien Hagerman answered with a trey of his own to start the Pioneers’ tide-turning run.
Millbrook scored 11 straight points — Jordan Jackson scored 7 in that span, including an acrobatic layup in the lane through contact that drew a foul and ended with a traditional 3-point play — to close the third period and pushed its lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Zachary Symons’ baseline jumper from the low block with 5:55 left finally halted the Warriors’ six-minute scoring drought that included a couple missed shots around the basket.
“I think the opportunity was there for us a little bit and we just didn’t seize it,” said Warriors assistant coach Brad Symons, who was filling in for head coach Garland Williams on Thursday night. “They came out in that little bit of pressure, we missed those couple layups we could’ve had and I think it kind of gets in our head a little bit. We just didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight like we had in other nights.”
Sherando 6-foot-5 junior forward Keli Lawson, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, was stuck on the bench for most of the Warriors’ dry spell with foul trouble.
“He gets in foul trouble and then it kind of takes us out of what we want to do with our in-and-out (game),” Brad Symons said.
Millbrook endured a three-minute scoring drought of its own during the latter half of the fourth quarter, which allowed Sherando to pull within 48-44 when Amari Williams’ steal turned into a Zachary Symons layup with 52.7 seconds left.
The Warriors again cut the deficit to four on Cole Armel’s 3-pointer with 19.2 seconds left. Millbrook made 7 of 8 free throws over the final 42 seconds to preserve its lead.
The Pioneers made 17 of 22 free throws in the win, an area that Grubbs said became a major emphasis after it cost Millbrook in a loss to Skyline on Dec. 6.
“We knew eventually it’s gonna come down to it and we want to make sure we’re prepped and ready,” said Grubbs, who noted that Taralle Hayden and Diante Ball each went 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth period on Thursday. “… Those are some big-time shots that occasionally get lost in the shuffle.”
Lane, Sherando’s lone senior, had 17 points in his final game. Armel (seven rebounds) joined Lawson with 10 points for the Warriors.
Hayden, who hadn’t played since a loss to Liberty on Jan. 24, led Millbrook with 14 points, while Jackson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds and Hagerman chipped in 10 points.
Millbrook, like Sherando, shot 41 percent from the field but the Pioneers outrebounded the Warriors 32-22 and limited Sherando to just five free-throw attempts.
Thursday’s loss was Sherando’s 13th by 10 points or less this season. Brad Symons, who has coached at Sherando for 23 years, said he’s never witnessed a season in which the Warriors were as heavily plagued by injury and illness.
“I’m proud of these boys,” Symons said. “They’re out there working hard. Practices were good. The adversity that they’ve handled this year, a lot of kids just could’ve bagged it in. These guys didn’t. They kept on fighting, and [Millbrook] is the No. 1 seed for a reason. They’re a pretty good team.”