To win during the playoffs, basketball teams need a special player one who steps up in the tough moments and can will his team to victory. Saturday night in the boys Northern Region championship game, Anthony Winbush was that player for T.C. Williams.
Winbush scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Titans to their second straight region title with a 66-54 win over Langley High School at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
Winbush comes to play when we need him in the biggest games,” said T.C. Williams coach Ivan Thomas. “He put us on his shoulders. He came over and was like, ‘I got you.’ He stepped up huge for us. He came to play.
Eighteen of the 6-foot-7 senior’s points came in the first half, including a one-handed 3-pointer at the buzzer, which sent the Titans into the locker room leading, 37-24.
I was hitting in nice spots, making all my shots, getting my teammates assists because of my points, said Winbush, who is getting looks at the Division I level from Niagara, Loyola and Central Florida.
No matter who Saxons coach Travis Hess put on Winbush defensively, he was a near-impossible matchup with his tall frame and guard-like ball skills. Junior Derek Baker began the game guarding Winbush, but foul trouble forced Hess to switch 6-foot-2 Barrett Hunter onto the assignment.
They’re a tough matchup, Hess said. You’ve got big kids, you’ve got athletic kids. It’s like, who do you put on who. We tried everything. We tried a little zone, we tried a little run and jump, we tried our junk defense. We fought and they were the better team. We lost to a better team tonight.
After holding a comfortable lead for much of the game, T.C. Williams threatened to run away in the fourth quarter, extending its advantage to 18 points on a Travis Berry 3-pointer with seven minutes to play. Langley fought back, however, pulling to within seven at 59-52 on a Baker layup at 1:50 part of an 11-2 run.
Once again it was Winbush who put the exclamation point on the Titans’ victory with a steal and a thunderous one-handed dunk with five seconds remaining.[The thing I’m most pleased about] is their mental focus, Thomas said of his players. What you’ve got to understand is that people came at us every imaginable way. They played us physical. That didn’t work. We had some teams try to play finesse, spread us out. That didn’t work. Then you had a team like Lake Braddock spread the floor, make it a slow game, a low-scoring game, and that didn’t work.
These are high school kids that went through that every night. That’s what I’m most pleased with, the discipline of my kids.
T.C. Williams will host the Eastern Region runner-up next Saturday in the Virginia AAA state quarterfinals at Robinson Secondary School.
While Winbush put on an offensive exhibition in the boys final, it was defense that led the Lee girls to the first region championship in school history. The Lancers made 18 steals en route to a 66-40 win over Woodson.
I told them all year long, ‘Defense wins championships.’, said Lee coach Rudy Coffield. It’s as simple as that. We told them at the beginning of the year, here was an opportunity for them to leave a legacy. They can come back 20 years from now and say, ‘We put that banner up there.’
The Lancers defense held the Cavaliers without a field goal for more than five minutes in the second quarter, helping the team establish a 38-18 lead at the half. It was more of the same after the break, with several steals leading to easy baskets and a 26-point victory.
Lee will also host a state tournament first round game next Saturday at Robinson.
Game time is 4:00 pm and the $7 tickets are available at TC’s Athletic Office.
Anthony Winbush – 24 points
Edward Jenkins – 13 points
Travis Berry – 11 points