The two greatest moments of Bryce Hammersley’s basketball career happened about 10 seconds apart.
The first came when the Battlefield High School senior found the net behind the arc with fifteen seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the second about 10 seconds later when he got Nasir Coleman’s layup rebound. , holding it tightly as the clock chimed. zero, sending the Bobcats to the state finals for the first time in school history with a 55-54 Class 6 state semifinal win over host Patriot in front of a sold-out crowd Monday evening.
Crowds of visiting Battlefields poured onto the pitch in jubilation as the once boisterous Red Nation reeled in shock, an undefeated season gone by in the blink of an eye.
Bobcats head coach Randy Bills hasn’t quite managed to lead his team to victory in any of the previous four contests against their Cedar Run District rivals, but now the architect of the most big win in program history, wiped tears from his eyes as he hugged his children and family.
When it was the win they needed most, they did it, and in the most spectacular way.
When asked what Monday night’s victory meant to the team, Bills, his voice still raw with emotion, underlined his pride.
“I’m so emotionally invested,” Bills said. “They’ve worked so incredibly hard, executing, grinding every time. And for us to beat a team that’s supported us all season – they’re so talented, they’ve had an incredible season – that’s simply the greatest feeling in the world.
Battlefield (20-6) faces Hayfield (31-0) Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the Siegel Center in Richmond for the Class 6 state title. Patriot, who beat Battlefield twice in the regular season as well as the district tournament and the Region B regional titles, finished the season at 26-1.
The game was a shootout from the start. After the two teams traded the first five points, a Jay Randall jumper started a 10-2 run for the Pioneers, giving them a seven-point lead at the halfway point.
After four straight games for the Pioneers, it was a six-point game again after a 5-0 run for the Bobcats, Battlefield scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a one-point lead before the second.
Battlefield would score the first five points of the quarter to extend their lead to six, but their offense would stagnate for the rest of the half as Patriot outscored them 20-5 in the remaining seven minutes, with Coleman capping a ten-point performance in the first half with a spectacular three at the buzzer.
The third quarter was mostly devoid of any offense, though the Bobcats cut their lead nearly in half as they entered the final quarter with just five.
The fourth recalled the first meeting between the two teams: an absolute nail biter. After an 8-0 run for Battlefield gave them a three-point lead with just under six minutes to go, Patriot would defend with four straight games for the one-point lead.
They would extend their lead to four with 3:41 to go – a lead neither team would overtake for the rest of the night.
With just under a minute left, Patriot’s Mike Ackerman hit a three, giving the Pioneers a 54-52 lead and the surrounding community a false earthquake alarm.
It would be the same scoreline around 45 seconds later as Hammersley found himself directly in the opposition stands, where many of his comrades were ready to go into hysteria.
He got the ball and – without hesitation, “or a thought in my mind” – he brought down the hammer.
And everyone from the stands soon after.
For Bills, Friday’s national title game against another undefeated team will be personal. He’s known head coach Carlos Poindexter for years, and the last playoff meeting between the two schools was a 38-31 win for Battlefield in the 2018 state quarterfinals.
“We just have to take care of business,” Bills said.