With Patriot desperately trying to stage a late comeback, Hayfield’s Donovan Bass-Briscoe spun past the Pioneers’ defense and sent a pass to Jahleel Jackson, who swished a three from the right corner to give Hayfield a 45-35 lead.
The shot was a dagger to Patriot’s hopes of a historic first state title.
Soon it was over as Hayfield (30-1) outlasted Patriot 52-41on March 10 to win the Class 6 boys basketball title for the second year in a row.Patriot finished 27-4 after going toe-to-toe with a team as athletic as they were.
“We were the best two teams in the state in the last two years,” coach Sherman Rivers said. “So, to lose to them isn'ta bad thing. I just would have liked for us to play a little bit better.”
The finest season in Patriot history was both bittersweet and rewarding, said Rivers.
“At the end of the day, we made it to the last game. Not everybody gets that opportunity. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes in that game and have a good run at it next year,” he said of the showdown at Richmond’s Siegel Center.
Hayfield edged Patriot 75-73 in the season opener, so the rematch was highly anticipated.
Patriot rebounded better than they did the first time, but struggled to protect the basket, take care of the balland missed plenty ofshots.“From an offensive standpoint, we turned it over too much, and we just didn't finish around the basket like we normally did,” said Rivers.
Patriot shot 1-of-12 on 3-pointers, withjunior sharpshooter Dezmond Hopkins making the only one.Still the game was always in doubt, with Hayfield holding a precarious lead most of the game.
Hayfield led 12-10 after the first quarter, then 24-15 late in the second. Thanks to an aggressive Nasir Coleman, who drove and finished a layup then hit three free throws, the Pioneers closed the deficit to 24-20 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Patriot continued to struggle to score, but physical defending and group rebounding kept them close.
Hayfield opened a 10-point lead by scoring the first six points of the third quarter, but Patriot stayed in striking range as senior Jay Randall scored twice on offensive rebounds, cutting Hayfield’s lead to 36-28.
Coleman opened the scoring in the fourth by taking the inbounds coast-to-coast, finishing at the rim, then making a free throw, closing the margin to 36-31. The teams then went back and forth trading buckets, with Hayfield seeming to have an answer.
With four minutes remaining,Jackson’s backbreaking corner three to grow the champions’ lead to 10.
Patriot’s leading scorers were Coleman with 12, Jay Randall with nine, Hopkins and Kaden Bates with eight and Isaiah Vick with four.
Thank you, seniors
Rivers credits seniors Bates, Coleman and Randall as the driving factor in the Pioneers’ magnificent53-5 record the last two years. In 2022, Patriot went 26-1 and was upset by Battlefield in 2022 in the state semis, then played for the state crownthis year.
“For our guys to take what happened the season before and really make a point to get past that point and to give themselves an opportunity for a state championship, I can't say enough about everything that they've done for us,” Rivers said.
“Nasir Coleman, Jay Randall and Kaden Bates led the way,” he emphasized.While none of the three have committed to play collegiately, Rivers expects opportunities to surface.
Next year already looks promising. Patriot returns leading scorer Dezmond Hopkins and big manIsaiah Vick. Juniors Mekhi Dillard, Abe Halim, Ryan Keenan and Brady Page, who all contributed this season, will see increased roles.
“Our goal is going to be the same as it always is. First, we start with the district. Then we go with the region. And then hopefully we can advance in the state tournament and get back to state champion game,” Rivers said.
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