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February 12, 2013

Patriot District Playoff Preview

VirginiaPreps.com is excited continue its AAA Basketball Playoff Coverage. We're your stop for Recaps, Postgame Audios, Previews, Blogs and much, much more throughout the postseason all the way to the State Final at VCU's Siegel Center in March.

We now break down the Patriot District Tournament, where three teams will join W.T. Woodson in the Northern Region playoffs. Our predictions can be seen below; over the past two years we've nailed 78% of our projections. Find out how we do by staying tuned to the site through the entire playoffs!

#1 - W.T. Woodson Cavaliers (19-3; 13-1)

#8 - Annandale Atoms (4-17; 3-11)

Few teams in the state at the Group AAA level have as good as résumé as the W.T. Woodson Cavaliers under the direction of Patriot District Coach of the Year Doug Craig. Woodson won the Patriot regular season title for the second year in a row, going 26-2 over their last 28 league games in a district that has long been dominated by T.C. Williams. Woodson swept them and their only in-league trip up came against West Potomac. Outside of the district, they've lost just two other games to Liberty District regular season Champ Langley and private school power Bishop O'Connell out of Arlington.

Woodson had an impressive showing at the Ronald Curry Classic, becoming the first non-Eastern Region team to win the tourney. Sophomore point guard Eric Bowles (9.1PPG, 7APG) is the straw that stirs the drink, getting everyone involved and his contributions are invaluable, which is largely why he was named the Patriot District Player of the Year. Six-foot-6 senior forward Tommy Stepka (14.3PPG, 43 3's) is an All-League performer who stretches the defense, while 6-foot-4 senior forward Peter Murray (11.4PPG) was the MVP of the Curry Classic. Mike Hansler, Andy Stynchula and Stephen Muldoon are key role players for the Cavaliers.

For Annandale, this is a team that made it to the Group AAA State Tournament quarterfinals just three seasons ago. Long gone are those standouts from that bunch in D'Angelo Boyce, Karl Ziegler (Longwood) and Melvin Robinson, but one of the few holdovers is senior guard Sanar Shamdeen (18.6PPG, 84-103FT), a lethal shooter with 50 three-point makes on the year. Sophomore guard Austin Hall (10.1PPG) will become their go-to guy after this season. The Atoms did upset West Potomac in a game where they scored 35 points in the fourth quarter, so if they get red hot from deep, they will cause problems.

Pick: W.T. Woodson 67-51. This is a senior-heavy bunch for Woodson with eight on the roster, but even beyond this year they are going to be in pretty good shape with Stynchula back in the post as well as two more years with Bowles at the point. The way Woodson executes its stuff with back-cuts, moving without the ball and playing a patient, smart and efficient brand of basketball is beautiful to watch for the purists. For others that want to see the flashy plays with the big-time jams and 1-on-1, they may want to check someone else out. When they play an up-tempo team with a great amount of athleticism and quickness, it'll be a contrast in styles and interesting to see which prevails.


#4 - Lake Braddock Bruins (14-7; 10-4)

#5 - Robert E. Lee Lancers (5-16; 4-10)

Entering the district playoffs, Brian Metress' Lake Braddock Bruins have won six of their last eight, including a 66-62 double-overtime victory over Patriot District rival T.C. Williams. In that game, 6-foot-5 junior forward and First Team All-League performer Will Gregoritis (16.7PPG) had his seventh 20-plus point game of the season. On the year, Gregoritis has been to the foul line 151 times, and in one-on-one situations he's one of the region's most challenging covers. Gregoritis isn't just an effective offensive player; he was also chosen on the Patriot District's All-Defensive Team. Scoring on him can be just as tough as stopping him from scoring.

A player who has really come into his own and flourished for Lake Braddock is 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Reagan Jones (11PPG), who burned Westfield for 29 points and Annandale for 26. If Lake Braddock is to get to the semifinals to clinch a regional berth and then hope to enhance their seed for regionals, it's going to take Jones having a monster effort in one of these tournament games. Second-year Head Coach Kosa So at Robert E. lee has gotten the Lancers to make considerable strides this season with four league victories, their most in a while.

Lee was once the laughingstock of the district and now they are a #5 seed with an opportunity to go to regionals. Edging out Annandale in overtime and beating South County were big steps in the right direction, but now the question becomes are they good enough offensively to hang around until the very end? No one on the team is averaging in double-figures in points and they've been held under 50 in six of their last seven games. Second Team All-District performer R.J. Barnes (9PPG), a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, has a promising future. Lake Braddock won both regular season meetings, the ladder 51-42.

Pick: Lake Braddock 62-44. For Lee to have any shot whatsoever, they need Barnes to be at the top of his game, but also get quality performances from 6-foot-6 junior center Chris Hahn and 6-foot-1 senior Tai Dang, two of their experienced upperclassmen on the roster. Lake Braddock's defense can bottle up an offense prone to dry spells shooting, which the Lancers are. All Metress' group has to do is sit back in the zone, not rush shots on the offensive end and my guess is it'll be another large win for Lake Braddock playing in their home gym. Long-term for the Bruins, they must get a consistent third option to help out Gregoritis and Jones.


#3 - T.C. Williams Titans (13-9; 10-4)

#6 - West Springfield Spartans (4-18; 3-11)

Success at T.C. Williams in basketball is measured through winning Championships. Two years ago, the Titans won yet another Northern Region title, but last season they were bounced by Westfield in the regional quarterfinals to end their streak of dominating the region. It has been five years since they last won the state title, and while this team doesn't look like one that will be playing into March in the postseason, Julian King's bunch always finds a way to make things tricky for whoever they face whenever they play. These Titans come in having won six of its past nine with a double-overtime loss at Lake Braddock as well as defeats coming from Montrose Christian and Woodson, who they led at the half.

Six-foot-3 junior swingman Malik Carney (10.6PPG) was a First Team All-Patriot District performer and he's helped out offensively by the likes of 6-foot-3 senior swingman Javon Wilson (10.3PPG), a Second Team All-League performer, and two-sport athlete Landon Moss (7.9PPG), who'll play his College Football at Coastal Carolina. Other than Wilson, they really don't have a bona-fide three-point threat. Senior guard Dealo Robertson is only 5-foot-8, but has been a pesky defender all year.

West Springfield lost the fist meeting back in January to T.C. Williams, 68-51. In the second encounter in February, they couldn't solve their defense, getting routed 62-34. Three times in the last five games they've scored less than 40, so they have to avoid that early funk that often lingers with teams for an entire game. Six-foot-3 sophomore forward John Cronin (11.2PPG) is arguably West Springfield's best player, but if T.C. takes him away, they are in big trouble. Even though he's just 6-foot-2, senior Matt Ahola (9.8PPG) has to be a beast on the defensive boards and help limit the Titans to one shot.

Pick: T.C. Williams 64-42. As many Northern Region coaches will say, until they are beaten, they'll be a factor. The T.C. Williams Titans had a near identical season a year ago when they were the #4 seed and went on to upset W.T. Woodson in the semifinals en route to claiming Patriot District Tournament crown. There are stretches against top-notch teams where the Titans have trouble manufacturing point, as shown in their loss to Maury in the VirginiaPreps.com Classic. If West Springfield can jump out to a fast start and make the Titans play from behind, then they have a chance at making things interesting. The last time they met, the Spartans were the ones offensively challenged with 24 points.


#2 - West Potomac Wolverines (13-8; 10-4)

#7 - South County Stallions (7-15; 3-11)

If you are searching for a team that can make a surprising long run in the Northern Region Tournament, one of the first candidates that come to mind are the West Potomac Wolverines. They are the only Patriot District team to date to knock off W.T. Woodson, which was 15-2 overall at the time when they beat them. Additionally, David Houston's ball club also outlasted Herndon in overtime. Their head-scratching loss came against Annandale, which was 2-15 when the Atoms upset them and scored 35 points in the fourth quarter alone. That loss aside, West Potomac has the potential to make some noise.

West Potomac's backcourt makes them go with 5-foot-7 senior guard Brandon Pressley (16.3PPG) and 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Kwame Camon (14.6PPG). Pressley hit for 40 in that loss to Annandale and has made 98-of-111 free-throws, a remarkably high percentage. Camon scored 30 in the early season win over Herndon. Five-foot-9 junior guard Demornay Pierson-El is their high-energy defender to bother perimeter players for the other team. South County comes in reeling a bit with six consecutive losses. The Stallions do have two marquee players on its roster.

Selected All-Patriot District First Team, 6-foot-4 senior swingman Justin Hampton (19.6PPG) is one of the best scorers in the region, having drilled 64 three-pointers on the year. Hampton scored 36 vs. Robinson, 35 against T.C. Williams and had 27 in the last meeting with West Potomac. Post player Oren Burks (10.1PPG), who will play his College Football at Vanderbilt, gives them a presence in the paint. Then there's 6-foot-3 senior swingman Nathan Williams (8PPG), who Coach Wendell Johnson is hoping for a strong game from to have a shot late in the fourth quarter at springing the upset.

Pick: West Potomac 73-66. For me personally, this is the most intriguing first round matchup in the entire Patriot District Tournament. Going back to around October when I saw South County at the CNU Team Camp, I thought this team could pull an upset because of Hampton, though the lack of a true, dynamic point guard hurts them at times. They come in reeling, but West Potomac didn't let their big win over W.T. Woodson stick by losing to Annandale their next time out. That's somewhat of a case of inexperience and they should and likely will grow from that setback. Hampton has to play at a high level for South County to win, but I wouldn't rule out an upset here completely.

Patriot District Tournament Picks:

Quarterfinals: W.T. Woodson over Annandale; Lake Braddock over Robert E. Lee; T.C. Williams over West Springfield; West Potomac over South County

Semifinals: W.T. Woodson over Lake Braddock; T.C. Williams over West Potomac

Championship: W.T. Woodson over T.C. Williams

Tournament MVP: W.T. Woodson's Tommy Stepka


Matthew Hatfield serves as AAA State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related info and updates. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 and watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.


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