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Battlefield boys prepare for first state tournament appearance

- battlefield-boys-prepare-for-first-state-tournament-appearance

Battlefield boys prepare for first state tournament appearance

Reaching the Group AAA state tournament for Battlefield athletics teams is actually old hat at this point.
The baseball, cheerleading, cross county, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse and soccer teams have all gone since the school opened in 2004, as have members from the swimming, tennis, track and field, and wrestling programs.
In fact, the lone holdouts are the volleyball and basketball teams.
Well, one basketball team, anyway.
Last Thursday night in Danville, the Battlefield boys pulled off a stunning upset on the road against host team George Washington, winning 95 to 89 in the Northwest Region semi-finals to earn an automatic berth to states.
It's a first for the program that had never won any regional games prior to this season, let alone three in a row on the road to earn a shot at the regional championship.
That title game didn't work out quite as well for the Bobcats on Saturday. The boys gave up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against home team Mountain View to fall 68 to 64.
Oddly enough, it marked a major improvement for the visiting team: Battlefield lost by 20 against Mountain View on opening day of the regular season in Haymarket on Nov. 28.
Yet on Feb. 23, Battlefield actually held a 27 to 25 lead at halftime and outscored the Wildcats 21 to 18 in the third quarter, a drive that continued well into the fourth quarter.
"We actually attacked their zone. That's actually the major difference between this game and our first game," said Battlefield assistant coach Jeremy Coleman.
He added that head coach Kurt Pauly "actually instituted some plays that were designed to get us into the paint" for this particular game.
Trevor Blondin, a junior guard and forward, sank two 3-pointers total as part of his game-high 21 points.
He would often find himself open along the baseline as the Wildcat's roaming "monster" defender in their one-three-one zone would be pressing Battlefield's guards well past the 3-point arc.
Meanwhile, senior point guard Roman Hall added another 18 points for the Bobcats and junior guard Jamison Glover also ended up in double digits, scoring 14 points.
From behind the arc, Battlefield actually out-shot Mountain View five to one.
However, four Wildcats ended up in double figures for the night offensively compared to three for Battlefield.
According to Battlefield assistant coach Jeremy Coleman, momentum in the game swung after the referees called a technical foul against Mountain View's head coach.
The Wildcats capitalized on Bobcat turnovers, converted their layup opportunities down the stretch, limited Battlefield's scoring and made free throws while Battlefield missed theirs in clutch situations.
During the final minute of play, the Bobcats actually had a chance to regain control of the game, trailing by just a point after Blondin sank a triple as part of his double-double performance.
"At that moment, our defensive strategy was to pick up a full-court man (to man defense), try to force a turnover. And if they got the ball in, don't foul immediately," said Coleman, adding that the coaches would let the players know when to foul if they needed to prevent Mountain View from eating up the clock. "We just couldn't get that bucket to get over the hump."
Battlefield opted not to guard the inbound passer as part of its trap defense and actually did knock the ball loose but they couldn't regain full possession and forced fouls instead.
Even though Battlefield lost its chance at bringing home the championship trophy, the team will have its first shot at redemption on Friday, March 1 in the quarter-finals of the state tournament.
Coleman explained that simply qualifying for states didn't light up the Bobcats' locker room on Saturday night.
They wanted a win.
"There's not a young man that felt that. We felt, 'We gave them this game, who do we play next," said the assistant coach. "The bigger goal is that title that you win on March 8."
Achieving that end game will first require a victory on Friday against Northern Region champion W.T. Woodson at Robinson High School in Fairfax.
Whichever team wins that game then heads to Richmond on Monday, March 4 for an 8:45 p.m. game in Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center.
The state finals are set for 9 p.m. on Friday, March 8 at the same arena.
"Listen, we had a long week. We played four games in eight days. I can't be prouder of our kids," said Pauly. "After a loss, it's always tough. But last night, when it comes down to it, we have to close out games and we didn't do that last night."
Pauly singled out the team's lackluster free-throw shooting down the stretch as the main culprit for the loss.
The nine foul shots missed by Battlefield only a 16 for 25 performance from the line more than made up the margin of difference in the game.
By contrast, Mountain View only bricked five shots while hitting 17.
Two nights earlier in Danville, Battlefield actually missed 13 foul shots but attempted 42 total, suggesting that the Bobcats managed to put George Washington into serious foul trouble throughout the game.
In fact, one of the main stories from Battlefield's run through regions is that the team has been quite good at drawing fouls.
During their 74 to 60 win over Potomac on Feb. 19, Battlefield hit 24 out of 38 foul shots but only sent the Panthers to the line for 17 attempts.
That came two days after the team sank 24 of 36 free throws in a 64 to 61 victory against Patrick Henry in the regional opener.
Blondin led all Battlefield scorers during the regional playoffs with 65 points total through four games while Glover put up 64 points and Hall ended up with 60.
Sophomore Kam Hedgepeth contributed another 53 and senior Terrell Walker earned 33.
"With Roman being the point guard, the primary ball handler, a lot of teams will get the misconception that the offense is really geared around him and focused around him and that's where I believe we would surprise a lot of teams," said Coleman. "Any of those young men, the offense could be geared toward them."
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