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December 31, 2012

W.T. Woodson Wins Curry Classic

One couldn't have asked for a much more competitive, better played game than the one seen in the Championship of the Ronald Curry Classic. For the first time ever, there wasn't an Eastern Region team playing for first place as two Northern Region contenders, the W.T. Woodson Cavaliers from the Patriot District and Herndon Hornets out of the Concorde District, clashed for 32 minutes and almost needed more time to decide a winner.

In what might've been a preview of the Northern Region Championship game in late February, W.T. Woodson edged Herndon 63-61 on a game-winning runner by sophomore point guard Eric Bowles with two seconds left. The Cavs overcame a virtuoso performance from Herndon senior point guard Will Ferguson, who scored a single-game Curry Tournament record 39 points with 31 off those coming in the second half.

"We have so much respect for Coach [Gary] Hall, Herndon and their program. They do a great job up there, and Ferguson was unbelievable tonight. We tried everybody on him and he's just really tough. I think I was going to sub in and try to guard him if we couldn't stop him," quipped W.T. Woodson Head Basketball Coach Doug Craig afterwards.

"I thought both teams really battled, played hard and had an opportunity to put the other one away, and to the credit of both teams, they kept fighting all the way to the end. We were just lucky enough to have the ball at the end, and our point guard Eric Bowles made a tough shot that was well defended. It was one of those games that came down to who had the ball last."

Herndon threw the first punch in the opening quarter with junior wing and D-1 prospect Dorian Johnson drilling a couple of jumpers and the Hornets would lead 16-14 after one period behind Johnson's eight points. Tommy Stepka, a 6-foot-6 senior forward for the Cavaliers, would score the next six points and his team controlled the second period.

Woodson went up 29-23 into half-time with Stepka scoring 14 of his 19 points in the first half. It was a carry over from the night before when he scored 20 points in the fourth quarter alone as they beat Bethel. One encouraging sign for Herndon was the fact they turned the ball over only once the entire first half, and in the third quarter with Johnson battling foul trouble, Ferguson went to work.

Ferguson literally had 17 of Herndon's 21 third quarter points, bringing the Hornets back from 10 points down to tie the score at 44-all going to the fourth quarter. Not only did he score at a prolific clip, displaying an unbelievable first step, but Ferguson grabbed seven rebounds and handed out six assists. He shot 12-of-20 from the field, 3-of-5 from three-point rang and made 10-of-13 at the foul line.

In the fourth quarter, although they fell behind five, W.T. Woodson didn't crack. It began with 6-foot-4 senior forward Peter Murray, the MVP of the Ronald Curry Classic, doing the dirty work around the basket. Murray registered a double-double, 19 points and 10 rebounds, with nine of his points coming in the fourth quarter.

Murray and Stepka weren't the only ones scoring for the Cavaliers either. Bowles added nine points and four assits. Mike Hansler scored seven. Six-foot-4 junior forward Andy Stynchula, the Cavs' backup post player, gave the team a lift with nine points and six rebounds off the bench.

"Eric facilitates for us. He can score the ball if you leave him, but he runs the show for us and does a great job," Craig said. "We have a lot of guys that can contribute and it's about everybody playing together, sharing the ball and making the extra pass and when you do that good things happen."

In the fourth period, Woodson shot 6-of-14 from the floor, got to the foul line 10 times and didn't turn the ball over once. Their execution was near flawless at the right time.

"It's early and it's December. We're happy to win games now and a tournament Championship is great. We want to be playing in February and March; playing in those big games late in the year and to do that you've got to keep getting better. But this team has a chance to be very good," Craig stated.

"It's essentially the same group back from last year that went 20-5, so our expectations are high. That group last year was kind of a young group. This group is a seasoned group and I think that showed in the fourth quarter when we got down five, whereas last year we might've folded up our tent."

Craig also knows that for Woodson to be in the hunt for a State Championship, they'll likely have to go through an Eastern Region team. In the tournament, they beat both Booker T. Washington, which won the 2006 AAA title and has made it to the State Playoffs three times over the past decade, and Bethel, the 2008 AAA State Tournament runner-up.

"The success that the Eastern Region has had statewide over the last 15 years speaks for itself," Craig added. "Everybody up north knows to win a state title you've got to go through an Eastern Region team. To come down here, play 2-3 games against Eastern Region teams every year and where High School Sports is such a unique experience I think is special for us."

Ronald Curry
All-Tournament Team:

Woodson's Peter Murray (MVP)
Herndon's Will Ferguson
Herndon's Dorian Johnson
Bethel's DaShawn Barton
Williamsburg's Jake Duncan [not pictured]

Will Garlick's Photo Feature

Postgame Audio with W.T. Woodson Coach Doug Craig


W.T. Woodson 63:
Peter Murray - - 19Pts. 6-13FG, 7-10FT, 10Reb. 2Ast.
Tommy Stepka - - 19Pts. 5-11FG, 7-8FT, 4Reb.
Eric Bowles - - 9Pts. 4-10FG, GW FG, 5Reb. 3Ast.
Andy Stynchula - - 9Pts. 3-8FG, 2-2FT, 6Reb.

Herndon 61:
Will Ferguson - - 37Pts. (31Pts. 2nd Half), 12-20FG, 10-13FT, 7Reb. 6Ast. 3Stl.
Dorian Johnson - - 11Pts. 4-8FG, 3-4 3's, 3Reb.
Kent Auslander - - 6Pts. 3-8FG

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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