Tidewater Academy advances to state semifinals

Published 12:05 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

It was raining three-pointers in the first half of Wednesday’s game between Tidewater Academy and Williamsburg Christian, but the Warriors changed defenses and shut off the Eagles’ faucet in a 69-59 victory in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Independent Schools Division 3 boys’ basketball playoffs.

Tidewater (28-1), the top seed in the tournament, advances to the semifinal round and will face either North Cross or Word of Life at noon Friday at Richard Bland College in Petersburg. The winner of that game moves on to the Division III state championship game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Richard Bland.

Williamsburg Christian, the eighth seed in the tournament, was upset-minded at the beginning of the contest. The Eagles hit eight three-pointers in the first half against Tidewater Academy’s 1-3-1 zone defense. The first quarter saw 11 lead changes, and WC took a 16-13 lead with 35 seconds left in the first quarter on a three-pointer by Will Mausteller.

The Eagles built their largest lead in the game at 30-22 on a three-pointer by Jake Duncan with 2:23 to play in the half. Tidewater was able to get back in the game with a late-quarter, 8-1 flurry. At the 1:40 mark, Donatas Zuzevicius hit a put-back and then a minute later banked in a bucket and connected on a free throw to cut the WC lead to 30-27.

Casey Rickmond gave the Eagles a dose of their own medicine with a long three-pointer with five seconds to play in the half to reduce the WC lead to 31-30.

Tidewater Academy head coach Walter Westbrook made adjustments at the half and changed to a 2-3 zone. The defense played better against the deep ball and held Williamsburg Christian to just two three-pointers in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.

Westbrook said he knew about Williamsburg Christian’s outside shooting after scouting the team on Tuesday night in a first-round win over Wakefield School.

“We just didn’t get to the shooters. We changed defenses and played a 2-3 matchup zone. On the 1-3-1, we couldn’t get to the corners,” Westbrook said. “We were defending them better (in the second half). They weren’t getting the wide-open shots. We had a hand in their face, and they had to decide whether they were going to shoot or have to put in on the floor.”

The lead flip-flopped again in the third quarter and Tidewater was able to take a 47-44 advantage into the fourth quarter. Two free throws and a drive by Dominique Brown put Williamsburg within 59-55 with 2:41 to play. But Tidewater was able to hold off the charge and broke the game open for good in a 40-second span when Quinton Hellyer bagged two free throws, Tommie Starks added a free throw, and then scored on a layup, to put TA up 64-55 with 1:05 to play.

Zuzevicius and Austin Westbrook both scored 14 points and Starks added 12 to lead Tidewater Academy. Brown scored 15 points and Kyle McAndrew added 10 points for Williamsburg Christian, which ended the season at 22-10.