Goochland’s last playoff game ended in heartbreak, a 4-point loss last year to Brunswick on its home court. In a realigned playoff system, Bulldogs regular season success gave it not only another home game to start the playoffs, but also a bye beforehand. And the Bulldogs were eager to put that 2017 loss to bed and get a shot to play for state tournament bid.
“We’ve done really well moving past that game,” said Goochland’s Deion Harwood. “We’re doing our thing, we’re playing well and so that’s behind us and we just weren’t worried about that game.”
Maggie Walker came into the contest playing with house money after a 1-point win over Nandua in the first round of the Region 2A tournament on Friday. After a first half where the Governors were knocking down a lot of 3-pointers in the first quarter, the top-seeded Bulldogs were able to avoid another upset in the postseason on its own court with a spirited effort from Harwood to go along with some clutch free throw shooting the the fourth paired with five big points from DJ Harris in a 51-45 win.
“I’m thankful we have this opportunity now,” said Goochland coach Preston Gordon. “To get the number one seed and be able to host each game in this tournament, it means a lot and says a lot about how hard these guys have worked. They’ve done it in practice, they do it in the locker and we’ve got to get re-focused for Wednesday.”
It was defensive struggle for most the contest and particularly early. It took more than five minutes for Maggie Walker to pick up its first field goal, but a 5-1 start from Goochland was answered by a 14-5 run late in the first through the second from the Governors to make it 15-10 with 6:42 until the break.
Goochland fought back to make it a 1-point game midway through the second and going into halftime, Maggie Walker held a 2-point lead at 25-23. The Governors’ Hunter Taylor and Avery Bowers combined for 15 points in the second.
“They were focused early on and we weren’t and you could tell during warmups and that’s our fault as coaches,” Gordon said. “They played us man the first time we played and then switched it up tonight with zone. We settled early on outside shooting and it was all of us. But when we attacked we got to the free throw line.”
The Bulldogs hitched their wagon to Harwood’s outside shooting the third while continuing to attack the basket with the rest of its roster. Harwood hit his fourth and fifth three pointers of the night on back-to-back shots with the latter giving Goochland a 29-27 advantage just under two minutes into the second half.
“It was super hard getting the ball inside to Keiston Carter,” Harwood said. “They’re really good at taking away the inside and making you shoot so that’s why we shot so many three’s. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t but you have to keep shooting against them.”
From there the Bulldogs were able to take a 32-27 lead but midway through the quarter, but a 7-3 run from the Governors paced by Daniel Opstelton made it 1-point lead for Goochland going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth had a little bit of everything. The Bulldogs went up 40-36 and then chose to dribble off nearly two minutes of clock to keep things there with just under four minutes to play. The Governors were able to tie things up at 42-42 with just over two minutes on the clock to set up what wound up being the biggest shot of the night.
With Harwood driving and coming up short on a shot, Quincey Snead was able to save a ball from going out of bounds and find a wide open Harris at the perimeter. Harris caught and shot, knocking down the go ahead 3-pointer in the process to make it 45-42.
“I was just ready when coach called my number,” Harris said. “The game was on the line and we needed the win.”
At the free throw line Goochland was able to make it 47-42 but with a minute left to play, Opstelton came up with an and-1 and it was a one possesion game. However, with the lead and the clock on their side, the Bulldogs finished off a 6-for-7 free throw showing in the fourth with Harris knockin down the final two foul shots of the game to make it 51-45. And on Maggie Walkers final possesion Snead came up with a rebound, passed the ball up court and Goochland was able to dribble out the final seconds of the game to put the game on ice.
On the night, Harwood finished with a game high 18 points on six three’s. Isaiah Matovu finished with eight points. Dallas Holmes chipped in six points. Carter had seven points. Harris threw in five with all of them in the fourth.
Goochland (20-4) now moves to within a game of making the Class 2A tournament and will host James River District rival Randolph-Henry on Wednesday. The Bulldogs split the regular season with the Statesmen and fell to them in the JRD championship game.