Thursday, March 06, 2008

T.C. Williams/State Preview

Confidence For Titans In Spite of Title Drought
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 6, 2008; VA16

Perhaps T.C. Williams junior Edward Jenkins's attitude toward what has become known as "the drought" could help the Titans become the first Northern Region team to win a state title in 27 years.

After a 69-61 loss Feb. 1 to two-time Virginia Independent School Division I state champion Benedictine, Jenkins, a speedy 6-foot guard, stood just feet from Benedictine's Ed Davis, a 6-foot-9 forward bound for North Carolina, and brushed off Davis's 30 points, 22 rebounds and 10 blocks.

"Yeah, he's a good player. So? We play against good players all the time," Jenkins said.
The Northern Region is 0-7 in the state final since Lee won it all in 1981. "So what? It's a drought. You can't do anything about it. You just have to play your game," Jenkins said.

That us-against-the-world mentality, widely spread throughout the Titans' locker room, could prove key for No. 3 T.C. Williams (26-3). That quest will start with a game against Eastern Region runner-up King's Fork (24-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Robinson.

It's an attitude shared and preached by Coach Ivan Thomas.

"We have our own goals that we set. Those goals are for the state crown," Thomas said.
The Titans have played against the area's best, including Benedictine (26-6), No. 2 Montrose Christian (21-4) and Southern Virginia private school power Norfolk Collegiate (19-11). This has made the team not just physically tough, but mentally prepared, Thomas said.

"To be honest, for three years, we've been playing under a lot of pressure," said Thomas, whose team is 65-3 against Northern Region teams and 52-0 in the Patriot District in three seasons. "Every team wants to be the team to knock us off. We get use to playing championship games on a daily basis, and I'm hoping that can serve as a catalyst for us as we pursue through this tournament."

In the past 27 years, the Eastern Region has compiled 14 titles, and the Central and Northwest regions have each claimed six, leaving many critics believing that the Northern Region's "brand of basketball isn't as good as others," Thomas said. "Our coaches and players around here are pretty good. In order to change that mind-set, one of us has to break the cycle or the drought."

Since the AAA classification was established in 1971, Northern Region teams have made it to the state final 14 times, claiming only three titles: T.C. Williams (1977), Mount Vernon (1979) and Lee (1981).

T.C. Williams showed equal promise in ending the drought last season, behind two Division I-bound players in Mike Davis (Illinois) and Glenn Andrews (Tulsa), but the Titans fell in the first round to Freedom-Woodbridge.

This team relies on a more balanced and unselfish approach; its leading scorer, 6-foot-2 senior sharp-shooter Travis Berry (14.4 points per game), comes off the bench.

Thomas said the Titans (26-3) are mimicking 2006 state runner-up Herndon's path to the final. The Hornets (26-5) rode McDonald's All-American Scottie Reynolds (Villanova) through tough nonconference matchups with Oak Hill Academy, Montrose Christian, DeMatha and California power Mater Dei before falling 55-51 to Booker T. Washington in the state final.

"I think Scottie did a good job of going down there that year. I felt like he was going to be the one to do it," Thomas said. "It's just a matter of finishing it off, and it's tough to do. It's a tough run."

State Tournament Preview

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