By MARCUS HELTON
WASHINGTON - In spite of all their success this season - a 31-0 record, a second straight DCIAA championship, the No. 1 ranking in the Washington Post - the HD Woodson Warriors came into Thursday’s DCSSA semifinal against Gonzaga with their fair share of detractors.
After pulling out a thrilling 108-105 double overtime victory, they may have converted the few remaining skeptics.
Kiyon Boyd scored 37 points and Derquan Washington added 26 as HD rallied to remain unbeaten at 32-0. The Warriors are looking to become the first DC public school team to finish unblemished since the Sherman Douglas-led Spingarn squad in 1985.
“We had everything to lose and everything to gain,” Boyd said. “People kept saying, ‘Oh, y’all 31-0, but y’all can’t run with a WCAC team.’ So Coach Trey [Mines] said, “Hey, it’s your choice: if y’all want to play in this tournament then we can. I got y’all if y’all got me.’ We said we had him and we went from there.”
HD advances to face Friendship Collegiate for the DCSAA Championship on Sunday at 3 pm in George Washington University’s Smith Center. Friendship rallied to beat IDEA late Thursday in a rematch of the PCSAA final.
Sunday’s title matchup of DC Public vs. DC Charter is a major accomplishment for those groups, who are often less highly-regarded and recruited than their private school counterparts.
“It means a lot to us because of all the disrespect,” Washington said. “31-0 is 31-0. We didn’t play elementary kids; I don’t see how they can disrespect us and say we aren’t playing anyone. But it’s still bigger than proving something to them. We didn’t look past [Gonzaga], because they’re a good team, but we thought we could win this game. We came here to win this whole state tournament and finish an undefeated season.”
For much of Thursday’s game, it seemed that Gonzaga was primed to end HD’s historic run. Led by WCAC Player of the Year Chris Lykes (30 points), Navy commit Nigel Stewart (25) and sophomore standout Prentiss Hubb (21), the Purple Eagles led for nearly the entire game – HD scored the opening basket and didn’t lead again until the second overtime - and consistently answered every Warrior run. Gonzaga led 22-12 after one quarter and pushed their advantage to 12 (44-32) at the half.
Boyd was excellent in the first half, scoring 16 of his points to keep the Warriors in range as star forward Antwan Walker started slow.
Gonzaga led by six points following an Eddie Scott dunk with 50.7 seconds to go in regulation, but Woodson rallied, capped by the biggest shot of Washington’s young career.
After Gonzaga’s Hubb made one of two free throws to give the Eagles a 79-76 lead with 11.8 seconds remaining, Mines drew up a play to get the ball into Washington’s hands. In the final five seconds Boyd found Washington, who put up a high shot that fell through as the HD faithful erupted in celebration.
“The play was for Kiyon to drive inside the paint and kick it to me on the opposite side,” Washington said, “but I knew that Chris was just staying on me. Me and Kiyon have been playing together for a long time, so I just came around and caught [Lykes] sleeping a little bit, and it was too late once he got there.”
Said HD coach Trey Mines: “These kids have no fear – none. Trust me, inner city kids see worse, all the time. I just kept trying to encourage them that this is just basketball, and you guys have hit these types of shots before in championship environments. We told them straight out when they came [to the bench], ‘Yo, were going for the tie. We’re going to get this thing into overtime, and you’re destined for it.’ He let it go and there wasn’t a doubt in his mind, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, and there wasn’t a doubt in the bench’s mind.”
Gonzaga grabbed early leads in each overtime, and both times Woodson fought back. In the second extra period, the Warriors finally went in front, and Boyd sealed the win at the free throw line. Gonzaga had one final chance to tie the game with 1.3 seconds left, but Lykes’ desperation 3-point attempt fell short.
Walker finished with 13 points for HD, while Tamontae Chambliss had 11 and Clent McCoy 10. Scott finished in double figures for Gonzaga with 13.
The victory went a long way towards silencing Woodson’s critics, who have questioned their strength of schedule and legitimacy as the area's top team.
“As much as we try to turn a deaf ear to it, we’re all human,” Mines said. “We see the things that are said. For me as a coach, I took it personally because you’re talking about my kids, and I know what they go through every single day. I won’t say that I had a chip on my shoulder, but when I saw how they took it, I got a chip and they had a chip. It was one of those things today where it’s just like, ‘We’re going to prove to everybody - look, we don’t have to be 33-0, 34-0 but we can play with these guys.’ You’re not going to disrespect us, we can play with these guys and we hung in there and won.”
After celebrating in the locker room, the Warriors immediately turned their attention to Friendship Collegiate, and closing out their best year ever on a high note.
“It’s a blessing to be 32-0,” Boyd said. “Not too many teams in the last few years can say they’ve done that, but we’re still humble at the same time and we’re going to keep pushing forward and try to get the ‘W’ Sunday.”
HD WOODSON (108)
Kiyon Boyd 37, Derquan Washington 26, Antwan Walker 13, Tamontae Chambliss 11, Clent McCoy 10, Kavon Montgomery 8.
Chris Lykes 30, Nigel Stewart 25, Prentiss Hubb 21, Eddie Scott 13, Jack Lawrence 6, Anwar Gill 5, Myles Dread 2.
HD Woodson 12 20 19 28 10 16 - 108
Gonzaga 22 22 13 22 10 13 - 105
PHOTO BY WALLACE BARRON