Thursday, March 20, 2008

T.C. Williams Follow Up/Championship

Titans Dominate Bethel to Take Title
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 20, 2008; VA20

T.C. Williams boys' basketball coach Ivan Thomas stood outside his team's locker room earlier this month after the Titans' second consecutive Northern Region championship and spoke reverently of Charlie Thompson.

Thompson took four Northern Region schools to the Virginia state tournament, and his 1981 Lee team was the last school from the area to capture the title.

Until Friday, when Thomas's Titans accomplished the feat with a 70-57 win over Bethel, a team stacked with Division I recruits.

Thomas, a former assistant under Thompson, received a call from Thompson before the win.

"He called me today and wished me good luck," said Thomas, who is in his third year at T.C. Williams after six as coach at Edison. "We're very close."

In ending Bethel's 29-game winning streak, these Titans (29-3) accomplished what seven previous Northern Region teams -- T.C. Williams (1983), Robinson (1987), Lee (1988), Hayfield (2000), Herndon (2005) and South Lakes in 1999 and 2003 -- couldn't.

T.C. Williams, which also won a state title in 1977, became the Northern Region's only two-time state champion. The Titans are the first AAA team from Northern Virginia to win a state championship since Northwest Region power Potomac beat Kecoughtan 62-53 in the 1995 final.

"I didn't do this by myself. I had a lot of help from the coaches in Northern Virginia," Thomas said. "They allowed us to play the Montrose Christians and the Benedictines, and that is solely the reason we played those teams, because that's a different brand of basketball, and you don't face that type of basketball in Northern Virginia, that type of athleticism and that type of play, so we had to go out and prepare ourselves."

T.C. Williams played the most difficult schedule in program history, facing off with No. 2 Montrose Christian (20-4), two-time Virginia Independent School Division I state champion Benedictine (28-7) and southern Virginia power Norfolk Collegiate (19-11).

The rest of the state "thinks we're soft, but we're not," said 6-foot-7 senior Anthony Winbush, who scored 14 points in the final and averaged 13 points throughout the state tournament.

The schedule toughened T.C., and the Titans won their 10 postseason games by an average of 19.2 points and held their opponents to an average of 42.6.

"We came out here with no big-name players like last year," said junior guard Edward Jenkins, who scored 22 points in the final, helping to erase memories of last season's squad, which fell in the state tournament's first round despite having two Division I recruits in Mike Davis (Illinois) and Glenn Andrews (Tulsa).

The Titans' defense held Eastern Region runner-up King's Fork (24-6) and Central Region runner-up Petersburg (27-4) to season-low point totals.

"I'm so proud of the way they rotated to the ball, the way they expressed themselves and communicated off the ball," Thomas said. "We pressed all year, and I told my guys, 'If we're going out, we're going out swinging, doing the things we do.' "

T.C. Williams's pressure forced Bethel (30-2) into 20 turnovers and 37 percent shooting (20 for 53) from the field, keeping the Bruins to less than 20 points by halftime and taking a dominant 32-18 lead.

"It was a long time before the clock expired," Jenkins said. "It felt like forever."

"In pregame, I had my confidence going," said Titans senior Travis Berry, who came off the bench and hit five three-pointers en route to his 22 points Friday. "If I have my confidence going, it's going to be a long night [for the other team]."

Berry hit 13 shots from behind the arc in the three-game tournament and finished the season as the area's second-best three-point shooter with 85 made, one behind Oakton's Bart Reese.

Over the past three years under Thomas, T.C. Williams is 52-0 in the Patriot District, 65-3 against the Northern Region and 78-11 overall, numbers that prompted the team to begin a tradition of holding up a diamond-shaped hand signal after each victory.

"A diamond is forever, and that's what that means," Thomas said. "We created a dynasty, and we will keep doing this. The dynasty will continue."

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