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HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL: For Eagles, onto final

RICHMOND—With every passing game this season, Colonial Forge’s boys

basketball team hasn’t wavered from its single-minded focus.

Win and move on to the next one. That’s always been the mindset. Now

there’s only one game left.

The Eagles, who have won 24 straight, are one win away from the first

basketball state championship in school history.

Displaying the athleticism, power and balance that helped it win conference and region championships this season, Colonial Forge defeated Lake Braddock 75–67 Friday night in the 6A state semifinals

at VCU’s Siegel Center to advance to the title game.

The Eagles will return to the Siegel Center on Friday night to face the winner of today’s other semifinal between W.T. Woodson and Landstown, the team Colonial Forge toppled here last Friday in the 6A South Region championship.

“It feels real good, but we didn’t want to just come this far,” junior shooting guard Marco Haskins said, echoing what he’s been saying throughout the postseason. “We have a goal in mind, and that’s to win a state championship.

“Now that that game is ahead of us, we’re going to work real hard next week in practice to get ready to get it done next Friday.”

Keeping the players focused on completing their grand plan of winning a state championship shouldn’t be difficult for head coach Jason John and his staff. They’ve been locked in all season.

“This is a really steady group of guys. They don’t get too high or too low,” John said. “I’m very proud of them for that.”

Five Eagles players scored in double figures against the Bruins (23–5), the runners up in the 6A North Region. Haskins led the way with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jaylen Franklin sank three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.

Gary Jennings (10 points, eight rebounds), Winston Burgess (10 points, two blocks) and Isiah Williams (10 points, three rebounds) were also in double figures, and Damen Daniel (nine points) and Carion Eaton

weren’t far off.

“The thing that makes me happiest is we had almost seven guys in double digits,” John said. “Just the balance of scoring there, it’s got to be frustrating for an opposing coach to figure out how you want to defend these guys, because on any given night anybody can step up.”

The Eagles (26–1), who went 5–18 two years ago in John’s first season, became the first Fredericksburg-area team to earn a spot in the championship game in the Virginia High School League’s highest classification.

“We’re going to enjoy this win, but we still have another goal we want to reach and that’s next Friday for the championship,” Daniel said.

Colonial Forge led by as many as 15 in the second half, but Lake Braddock went on an 11–4 run to cut the deficit to 64–58 in the fourth

quarter.

As has been the case throughout the playoffs, the Eagles were forced to hold the lead from the free throw line, and they came through with another strong performance. Colonial Forge went 25–35 from the line. Eaton went 8 of 10 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles led for most of the game. They got hot early against Lake Braddock’s 2–3 zone and rode the hot hand of Franklin, who sank all three of his 3-pointers in the first half. Williams was also a big factor off the bench in the first two quarters, scoring eight of his 10 points before the break.

“Honestly it felt like another day at practice,” Franklin said. “We work on shooting for 20 minutes every day in practice, so it just felt like another day in the gym. I had confidence and just let it fly.”

Colonial Forge pushed the tempo throughout and pressured the Bruins into some uncharacteristic turnovers. The Eagles’ athleticism and depth was eventually too much for Lake Braddock to overcome.

The Bruins’ zone gave the Eagles trouble early in the third quarter, and Forge’s lead dwindled to five, but the Eagles went on a 16–6 run to increase its lead to 15.

“During the second half, [Lake Braddock’s fatigue] really showed because we were just pushing the ball up the court,” Jennings said.

“Even though it got kind of hectic at times, we just held through it and weathered the storm.”

Lake Braddock 16 12 10 29 — 67

Colonial Forge 16 22 9 28 — 75

Scoring

Lake Braddock (23–5): John Nice 8, Vince Sica 2, A.J. Alexander 13, Reagan Jones 4, Will Gregorits 13, Corey Pelham 10, E.J. Johnson 4, James Butler 13. Totals: 25 7-21 67.

Colonial Forge (26–1): Winston Burgess 10, Damen Daniel 9, Carion Eaton 8, T.J. Flood 0, Jaylen Franklin 13, Marco Haskins 15, Gary Jennings 10, Isiah Williams 10. Totals: 23 25-35 75.

Three-point goals: Lake Braddock 7 (J. Nice 2, A.J. Alexander 1, C. Pelham 3, J. Butler). Colonial Forge 4 (D. Daniel, J. Franklin 3).

 

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

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