By Thomas Dozier
L.C. Bird has had its successes on the football field. Three straight 5A state championships isn’t just an accomplishment; it’s a feat.
While the both the Skyhawks boys’ and girls’ basketball programs have had their share of successes, neither team has brought home a state title.
The boys came within a razor-thin margin twice: in 2011 (I.C. Norcom) and 2016 (Potomac).
The girls are perennial contenders in the conference, region and state; they fell to Princess Anne in the 2014 state championship game, and the 2017 squad packed with freshmen and sophmores, lost to Thomas Edison 59-51in the 5A state quarterfinals Thursday night.
However, a balanced roster for the boys’ program is still dancing. They’ll face Bethel, for all the marbles.
The Skyhawks opened the state tournament with a 61-44 victory over Potomac Falls before needing two overtimes to dispatch Albemarle, 61-59 on the strength of a game-winner by 5A South Region Player of the Year Johquin “Pinky” Wiley.
Against Potomac Falls, senior swingman Cam Henry notched 16 points, while Jaylen Dillard and Mario Haskett reached double-figures with 15 for Dillard and 10 points for Haskett. Against Albemarle, had a game-high 25 points, while Haskett added 15 points and four steals, and Wiley finished with 11 points, five assists and three steals.
“We’ve taken the approach that we want to win our last game of the season,” Haskett, a Harvard signee, said. “It’s our last year together, and we want to go out on top.”
Under coach Troy Manns, L.C. Bird has taken an almost business-like approach. In fact, you won’t find many smiles in their region championship and conference championship trophy presentations.
“We know what we are here to do this season,” said Wiley. “It’s our senior year.”
They’ll certainly face a familiar opponent in the championship game, a team that they have already defeated twice by double-digit margins. The Skyhawks traveled to the 757 and defeated the Bruins 48-38 on Dec. 30 and then knocked off NBA legend Allen Iverson’s alma mater Bethel 75-63, in the 5A South Championship game.
Bethel may not have Iverson on the court for this game, but they’ve certainly got some talented athletes. Seven-footer Dajour Dickens is committed to play at Providence. Guard Cam Bacote is headed to Hampton, and Jeremiah Owusu is headed to Notre Dame to play football.
In both games, L.C. Bird has been able to contain Bethel’s “big three” and they’ll need to do it just one more time.
L.C. Bird and Bethel will square off Saturday, March 11 at 3 p.m. at the Siegel Center on the campus of VCU.