The Yorktown boys basketball team spent the first half of its regional quarterfinal contest against T.C. Williams going toe-to-toe with the physically superior Titans. Despite being shorter and slower, the Patriots and their 2-3 zone defense trailed by only four points as the second quarter neared an end.
As the final seconds of the first half ticked away on Feb. 23, Yorktown forced TC senior Tyrell Sitton into a tough 3-point attempt. Sitton elevated and let fly with a shot that appeared to hit the glass and back of the rim simultaneously. Rather than a long rebound common with a missed perimeter shot, the ball ricocheted softly in the air and fell through the net for a 30-23 Titans lead. Yorktown head coach Rich Avila gestured with his arms in disbelief as the Patriots prepared to head to the locker room.
"Everybody else in the region takes that shot, that thing ricochets off of there and bounces out," Avila said after the game. "He must have a soft touch."
Yorktown played well enough to stay close, slowing the pace of the game with its 2-3 zone, but TC always had an answer. The Titans ended the Patriots’ season with a 56-43 victory at T.C. Williams High School and eventually won the Northern Region championship.
"They’re tough. Their big men are skilled," Avila said. "… They got the easy baskets. We had to work for everything we had to do."
Yorktown senior Kyle Bailey scored on a putback with 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, pulling the Patriots within four at 41-37. After a timeout, TC held the ball for more than 90 seconds against Yorktown’s zone before Rick Mathews scored in the paint to give the Titans a six-point lead. The possession forced Yorktown to switch to a man defense and sparked a 7-0 TC run. The Titans led by at least seven points for the remainder of the contest.
"It’s just frustrating because we were playing great basketball — we were playing our basketball," Yorktown junior Jack Earley said. "They couldn’t stop us. We were coming back and it was frustrating to see them take us out of our game like that and make [us] play their game."
Much like the loss to TC, Yorktown played well during the 2010-11 season but couldn’t reach its full potential. Injuries slowed seniors Kyle Bailey (wrist), Drew Nash (shoulder), Devin Gaby (ankle) and Daniel Pietropaoli (ankle) early in the season, leaving the Patriots thin on the bench. Yorktown dropped its first four games but bounced back with 10 consecutive victories. The Patriots finished the season with 15 wins, reached the semifinals of the National District Tournament and the quarterfinals of the Northern Region Tournament.
"I’m just so proud of these guys," Avila said. "We had a long season. We overcame a lot of injuries in the beginning of the season. We started out with a four-game losing streak and then we won . We kind of plateaued for a minute and then we got our groove back in the playoffs and we made it to the elite eight."
Against TC, Bailey led Yorktown with 11 points and Earley finished with 10. Kevin Bailey and Nicko Esherick each scored seven points and Daniel Pietropaoli and Nick Yore each added four.
Yorktown will lose Nash, Kyle Bailey, Kevin Bailey, Esherick, Gaby, Pietropaoli and James Overbeek to graduation. Earley, a 6-foot-4 junior, and Yore, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, will be Yorktown’s top returning athletes next season.