Members of the Wakefield boys’ basketball team stopped to speak with the media outside of the Warriors’ locker room at Robinson Secondary School on March 8 following a 63-55 loss to Henrico in the 5A state semifinals. When junior Dominique Tham emerged from the locker room, however, he declined comment.
It was the first time all day Tham’s teammates helped pick up the slack.
Saturday’s state semifinal contest was close down the stretch, but Henrico’s hustle on the boards proved to be the difference. Henrico, the defending AAA state champion, outrebounded Wakefield 41-30 and finished with 15 offensive boards. Tham grabbed 22 of the Warriors’ 30 rebounds.
“We just feel down because we just went back [and looked at] the statistics,” Wakefield senior Re’Quan Hopson said. “We had 30 rebounds, Domo had 22 of them, that just shows that we weren’t helping him and that’s not how you want to end your last game.”
Tham, a 6-foot-4 forward who earned 5A North region Player of the Year honors, finished with 26 points, 22 rebounds, five blocks and three steals, but it wasn’t enough to carry Wakefield to victory. A Tham three-point play cut the Henrico lead to 51-50 with 1:48 remaining, but Wakefield couldn’t get over the hump.
“My hat’s off to Tham for giving everything he had … you would have thought he was a senior. The kid just has a fire and for him to have 22 rebounds out of our 30, that just shows you that he just wanted it more.”
— Wakefield boys’ basketball coach Tony Bentley
“My hat’s off to Tham for giving everything he had … you would have thought he was a senior,” Wakefield head coach Tony Bentley said. “The kid just has a fire and for him to have 22 rebounds out of our 30, that just shows you that he just wanted it more.”
Hopson scored 11 points for Wakefield, Marqua Walton finished with eight and Jalen Carver added six, but no player other than Tham had more than three rebounds.
“When we went down to team camp, it was always the 757 kids that rebound,” said Wakefield point guard Kyle Davis, who transferred from Washington-Lee for his senior season. “We should have known. … All year we relied on Domo and Xavier and Re’Quan to get the rebounds and this time it wasn’t enough for three guys to go out and rebound. We needed all five of us. I felt like, as the point guard, I should have been in there rebounding instead of leaking [for an outlet pass].”
The loss ended an impressive season for Wakefield. The Warriors finished the season with a 24-5 record, won the Conference 13 and 5A North region championships and made their second consecutive appearance in the state semifinals. The region championship was Wakefield’s first since 2005.
Last season, the Warriors won the National District title and had a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Northern Region championship game before losing to Woodson in overtime.
“My last two years here were great,” Hopson said. “… I feel like we can do it all over again because they’ve got Domo, Marqua, Xavier, [and Bentley] has another group coming in, too. I feel like Bentley’s going to have another good couple of years here.”
Wakefield’s projected returning athletes include Tham, Walton and Cooper, along with sophomore Deng Nhial, who missed time due to injury this season.
“It’s been a great run,” Bentley said. “We’ve battled through a lot of things. Even last year when no one thought we were supposed to get to where we were, then all of the sudden, ‘Khory Moore is gone, Ermias Nega is gone, you guys only got Tham:’ other guys stepped up. … I am getting tired of these runner-up trophies, but there’s a lot of coaches at home right now that would like to have a couple of these runner-up trophies, as well, so I have to take that with a grain of salt and continue trying to move and get us a championship at Wakefield.”