By Andy Baldacci
In a rematch of a hard-fought championship game Varina won last season, L.C. Bird got its revenge, Friday defeating Varina 61-58, on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mario Haskett to become the Conference 12 boys’ champions.
The Skyhawks controlled the lead most of the game with a fast-paced second quarter and aggressive defense. Despite this, the Blue Devils were able to stay in the game down to the final seconds.
With the game tied at 58 and five seconds remaining, the ball was inbounded to Pinky Wiley, who got it to Haskett, for the deep, contested, game-winning shot.
“We played well in spurts,” L.C. Bird coach Troy Manns explained. However, he explained how the team also “played selfishly in spurts, and almost cost us the ball game.”
The key moment of the game, as said, was easily the game-winning shot. This play was set up by a late surge by the Blue Devils. With 2:44 left, Varina trailed 58-52 and needed quick scores. Two fast lay-ups from Kenneth Southerland got them within two points with under a minute remaining.
After Varina intentionally fouled, then L.C. Bird missed the free throw, giving Varina the ball with 16 seconds left. After running the clock down, Zion Ross cut to the basket and made the turnaround jumper to tie the game.
With only five seconds on the clock, Wiley was able to dribble up to half-court and pass it off to Haskett, who hit the shot with a defender in his face. His teammates mobbed him and carried him off the court as the crowd went wild over his game-winner.
Throughout the game, the Skyhawks were led by the All-Conference First-Team duo of Haskett and Wiley. Haskett finished with 15 points, while Wiley had 10. Additionally, Cam Henry and Jyles Webster both had strong performances for L.C. Bird in the paint on both sides of the ball.
Ross led Varina on offense with 13 points, Southerland had 12 points from the paint and Tyrese Jenkins finished with 10.
In the 5A South Region, L.C. Bird played Mills Godwin Monday night, (results not in at VN press time) while Varina will play Hermitage at 8 p.m. With the win, L.C. Bird dethrones Varina as the Conference 12 champions in an exciting style. Due to press time restrictions, results could not be published, but are available on Twitter @RVAGameBreak.
First-round wins for both the Skyhawks and Blue Devils would set up a rematch in the regional semifinals, one that could be a thrilling replica of Friday’s game.