The Essex Trojans may have started the season weeks behind their competitors, but their efforts earned them a spot among the state’s top four teams. But as many teams learned after the first round of the state tournament, all teams must fall sometime.
On March 7, the Essex Trojans learned that falling to the Region C champion Radford 54-40.
Starting the season with an 0-8 before winning a game, the ball fell in the way of the Trojans to advance to this year’s state tournament. The Trojans did not win a regular season title, district tournament championship, or region finals games. But the team instead did things they needed to on the basketball court to earn a state tournament bid.
In previous seasons, Essex coach Scott Garber reiterated that if his team does what it needs to, good things would fall in place.
“We started 0-8 for the season and we end up in the final four [of the state] and I think its a tribute to our guys and our saying ‘never say die,’” said Garber. “We’re not perfect, but we’ve built a lot of character. It showed on the court and at the end of the season when we hung together and made this run at the end of the season.”
The season did not begin on time for the Trojans. Because most of their players were on the state finals football team, the coaches decided it was best to wait until they were all available.
But the team quickly gelled together, especially during close games. The team finished third in the district to advance to the Northern Neck District Tournament. The team won over the defending state champion Lancaster Red Devils before falling to the fourth seeded Northumberland Indians in the championship.
The effort Essex displayed earned them the sixth seeded spot in the Region A Tournament. Essex made their way to the finals defeating Mathews and Lancaster afterwards. Again the Trojans met up with Northumberland to defend their region championship, but lost in the closing moments.
Essex proved a week later why they worked so hard defeating Dan River 52-49 at the Salem Civic Center at least four hours away from home. This was their seventh straight game away from home.
With a bit of an advantage, Radford was coming in after their first state playoff game in the Siegel Center at Richmond. Before the semifinals game, Radford had played the opening round game in a win over Virginia High 59-42.
In the first half against Radford, the Trojans struggled shooting from the field. Essex started out 7-16 after the first half, while their counterparts were 8-31.
“Its been a tough year, but an enjoyable year. I’m just proud of what our players accomplished,” Garber said. “Tonight another team scored more points than we did, but it can never take away from your effort and your character.”
Despite the outcome and how the season started late for the Trojans, senior Alonzo Tompkins said the team was not going to fold.
“Coach told us to compete,”said Tompkins. “We didn’t want to have any regrets and wanted leave everything on the court…that’s what just kept us going.”
Essex’s Keith Bundy scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half, while Radford’s Marcus Finley scored 10 of his 16 to lead his team
DJ Ashlock chipped in for Essex to score eight points to go along with nine rebounds, Lawrence Hill with six, CJ Jones with three, Alonzo Tompkins and with two and Sterling Hammond with one.
Essex ended their season third in the Northern Neck District, and runners up in the Northern Neck District Tournament and Region A Division 2.
ESSX 18.104.22.168 40
RDFD 11.12.16. 15 54