It was a heartfelt conversation, a night before perhaps the biggest game either player or coach has encountered. They talked about life, mistakes and not letting people down.
“He said ‘I don’t want to let my mom down’,” said Goochland’s Preston Gordon. “I said I might have a bigger problem, I don’t want to let my county down. From here, played here, family is from here.”
Neither let anyone down Friday night as the Bulldogs beat George Mason 60-47 to earn the program’s first ever final four berth thanks in large part to Deion Harwood scoring 22 points while the Goochland defense held a Mason team packed with solid shooters to just 18 points in the second half.
“It’s very special, last year we got to this game and couldn’t get past it, we knew tonight what to expect, the atmosphere, the energy,” Harwood said. “It’s very special for us to get past this point.”
The win vaults the Bulldogs into the state semifinals where they’ll face East Rockingham at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at Mills Godwin.
While Harwood poured in 22 points, it may have been his effort on the boards that turned the tide for the Bulldogs. Harwood pulled down 16 rebounds on the night.
“That says a whole lot,” Gordon said of his lead guard’s rebounding effort.
Goochland fell into an 18-14 hole in the first quarter, and trailed at halftime 29-24. Even by the end of the third, Goochland was down three.
The fourth quarter though, belonged to the Bulldogs. They won the frame 23-7, with Harwood scoring 11 of his 22 points in the fourth, with most of them coming at the free throw line, where finished 9-for-11 on the night. Quincy Snead hit five free throws in the fourth and Kam Holman chipped in four points.
“It means so much to see what these guys put in day in and day out and we were here last year on this stage and Deion got injured,” Gordon said. “We stuck to our game plan and did a much better job defensively communicating and offensively our mentality just changed.”
Holman finished with 12 points on the night while Snead had 10 and Allen managed eight. As a team Goochland went 22-for-29 from the free throw line, a critical performance in a matchup that was tighter than the final score indicated.
In the locker room after the game, Gordon asked his team who’d been as far as them before. The answer? Nobody, several Goochland players answered.
But he quickly followed it up with another question. What’s it going to take to get to the next game? Heart, the answer came back quickly.
They’ll need that heart Tuesday at 6 p.m. against East Rockingham.