WINCHESTER — The Handley boys’ basketball team got off to a promising start, but its dream of its first state championship came up short on Saturday night at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium.
In a battle of unbeatens, Smithfield defeated Handley 61-54 in the Class 4 championship game. The Judges (11-1) led 27-15 with 1:25 left in the second quarter, but the Packers (10-0) outscored them 46-27 over the remainder of the game to win their first state title in school history.
The Judges led 27-20 at halftime and 35-31 with 4:19 to go in the third quarter, but Smithfield took its first lead of the game during a 15-0 run that put it up 46-35 with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter.
Handley twice cut its deficit to six points (46-40 with 4:24 left and 54-48 with 2:26 left), but the Judges could never establish enough consistent offense in the second half to get any closer than that.
Handley made only 9 of 33 field goal attempts (2 of 15 from 3-point range) and turned the ball over 11 times in the second half against an aggressive Smithfield defense.
Demitri Gardner recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead Handley.
This was the fourth state championship game for Handley’s boys’ basketball team in school history. It was the third time in eight seasons the team reached the title game, last making it in 2018. The Judges won the Class 4 Northwestern District and Region 4C titles this season.
Handley did not play its first game until Jan. 13. Winchester Public Schools announced in early December that it would delay participation in interscholastic sports until January due to COVID-19 concerns. (Virginia High School League basketball practice started on Dec. 7.) The school board voted on Jan. 7 to allow Handley to begin participating in VHSL athletics.
Parents of players on both teams were allowed to attend the game. Previously, spectators were not permitted at Handley games.