March madness

Published 8:38 am Friday, March 6, 2009

An area known more for its teams’ prowess on the football field in recent years is earning props on the hardwood this winter.

Three high school basketball teams from Western Tidewater are still in the hunt for state championships, while two others saw extremely successful seasons end Wednesday night.

The Franklin High School boys’ and girls’ teams are one victory away from earning spots in next week’s Virginia High School League Group A Division 1 semifinals at Virginia Commonwealth University. The Broncos and Lady Broncos will play Altavista High School in the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Longwood College in Farmville.

Coach Mona Sumblin’s girls’ squad is looking for a return trip to Richmond, where the Lady Broncos lost in the state championship game a year ago. In what many believed would be a rebuilding year, FHS has piled up an impressive 22-3 record and run roughshod over its Tri-Rivers District and Region A opponents. The Lady Broncos are a good bet to get back to the championship game — and win it.

The FHS boys’ team has been an inspirational story this winter. The Broncos, many of whom were members of the school’s state championship football team last fall, started slowly, losing several games in December while the players got reacclimated to the hardwood. By February, however, FHS was on a roll and waltzed through the Tri-Rivers District tournament. Coach Danny Dillon’s Broncos take an 18-5 record into Saturday’s game with Altavista.

Deservedly, both Sumblin and Dillon were named Region A Coach of the Year by their colleagues.

Tidewater Academy’s boys, ranked No. 1 among Virginia Independent Schools Division 3 teams, are two wins away from a state championship. Coach Walter Westbrook’s Warriors play today in the state semifinals at Richard Bland College in Petersburg and, with a win, would play Saturday for a state championship.

Southampton Academy’s girls saw their season end with a heartbreaking overtime defeat Wednesday in the VIS Division 3 quarterfinals. Coach Burdette Gatten’s Lady Raiders racked up 24 wins against just two losses. The bad news for SA opponents is that, barring injury, all of this year’s players will be back next year.

Isle of Wight Academy’s boys, like Franklin High’s boys, got on a late-season roll, took second place in the Metro Conference tournament and won their opener in the VIS Division 3 tournament before falling to powerhouse Carlisle School in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Along the way, head coach Ben Vaughan earned his 500th career victory.

That’s a lot of success in one season for the teams of Western Tidewater. We salute these young athletes and their coaches for representing our region well.