Varsity Basketball Honors Coach Strother with ‘Hat Night’ – defeats Trinity for the first time since 2010

Coach Cornell Strother celebrates as Woodberry sacks Collegiate’s quarterback

Johnny Russell ’22

On an emotional night for the Woodberry community, the Tigers opened up Prep League play with a bang on Tuesday evening as they defeated the Trinity Episcopal Titans 58-46.

The theme of the home game was ‘hat night.’ Students crowded the ‘Tiger Corner’ wearing  hats tilted backwards to honor Cornell Strother, Woodberry’s defensive line coach for the football team and well-known community figure who passed away a week ago after suffering a stroke. With Stroher’s family in attendance and cousin Keith Johnson on the coaching staff as an assistant coach, team manager Nic Hawkins ‘22 asked the Woodberry faithful to remove their hats before the game for a moment of silence in wake of the tragedy.

From the very start, it was clear that the Tigers were playing for something bigger than themselves. Samuel Crosby ‘22 fearlessly drove to the hoop and finished two contested layups in the paint, while freshman Jordan McConnell ‘25 also asserted his dominance near the basket. The Titans struggled to attack the Tigers’ zone defense, which only allowed one basket through the early stages of the first quarter. The crowd was on their feet. The Dick Gym was as loud as can be. It was a near perfect performance by the Tigers at the end of the first.

The Titans broke out of their shell offensively halfway through the second quarter with a strong Leland Coleman dunk and a pair of Alex Chinaik three-point shots. The offensive surge gave the Prep League powerhouse an 18-16 lead. Needing some momentum going into halftime, the Tigers were forced to respond, and they did. Emphatically. Team leader and Denison commit Danny McKay ‘22 came off the bench and drilled a clutch three. Point guard Amir Crawford ‘23 spun past two Titan defenders and finished a tough layup in the dying seconds of the quarter. At the break the Tigers led 25-22. This was shaping up to be one of the best performances by the Tigers this season, but the Titans were still breathing down their necks.

The Tigers’ started the second half the same way they started the first. With a bang. Despite only making one three-point shot in the first half, this new-look Woodberry basketball team shot lights out to open the second. Guard Justin Gagnon ‘23 led the charge as he swished two corner threes in the space of two minutes. Gagnon’s spectacular offensive play stretched the lead to 9, and it began to look as if the Tigers would run away with the win. Although shots weren’t dropping their way in the second half, the Titans found ways to score and cut the Tigers’ lead to 4. Coleman continued to play physical in the paint, and Trinity’s physical defense forced some errant turnovers in Woodberry’s backcourt.

Refusing to let his Tigers crumble in the midst of an explosive offensive run by the Titans, Coach Dawson sent them out onto the court ready to play in the fourth quarter. As cool as he’s been all season, 6’9’’ center McConnell iced the game in the late stages with two consecutive dunks that will be remembered for years. 

Woodberry’s Prep League home-opener was a special one. The last time the Tigers’ beat the Titans? We were in another decade. The year was 2010, and Joel Justus was the head coach. In his first win against Trinity, Coach Dawson was extremely proud of the way his team played. The 4x Prep League coach of the year expressed his disappointment with his team’s performance against Richmond Christian last Saturday, which made his team’s performance and willingness to bounce back in the face of adversity that much sweeter.

But then again, the Tigers played for something much bigger than themselves. Everyone in the Woodberry community, whether on the court, in the stands, or watching from home, kept Coach Strother and his family in their hearts last night, and there’s no better way to honor his legacy than with a win over rival Trinity Episcopal.

The Tigers’ play again on Friday in the Dick Gym at 6:00PM against another Prep League foe: the saints of St. Anne’s Belfield (STAB). Please make sure to tune in Friday night. Go Tigers!

Categories: Athletics