HAMPTON—Much of the Culpeper boys basketball team’s season has read like a Cinderella story.
The Blue Devils, who won the Northwestern District crown and advanced to the Region 3B semifinals a year ago, had to replace four starters from that team. To make matters even more complicated, they spent most of their first month of practice shorthanded while multiple would-be players were helping lead the school’s football team to the state playoffs.
Despite those hurdles, Culpeper managed to not only claim a share of the district title once again, but it also earned its first state tournament berth since 2011.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the clock struck midnight on their magical season on Friday night.
Khyree Temple scored 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, and eight other players reached the scoring column as Phoebus dominated Culpeper from start to finish in an 84–45 Class 3 state quarterfinal victory.
The win was the Phantoms’ 17th in a row, and it assures them of a rematch with defending state champion John Marshall in Tuesday’s semifinals. The Justices defeated the Phantoms 77–74 in last season’s quarterfinals.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win a [state championship],” Phoebus coach James Daniel said. “Tonight, the guys played very well and got us one step closer.”
It was clear from the start of Friday night’s game that matching up with Phoebus (24–2) would, literally, be a tall order for Culpeper (18-8). The Blue Devils struggled mightily against the Phantoms’ superior size and quickness, turning the ball over 10 times in the first quarter in the face of relentless full-court pressure.
Temple, a 6-foot-6 senior, scored eight points in the opening period, all from close range. When he wasn’t terrorizing Culpeper around the basket, he was deferring to silky-smooth sophomore point guard Shakir Dawan (14 points), who drained a pair of 3-pointers late in the frame to push Phoebus to a 21-8 advantage.
With Temple in foul trouble in the second quarter, the Phantoms’ depth was on full display. Seven different players scored in the quarter for Phoebus, led by junior guard Mahir Sharif’s five points and four each from Dawan and sophomore Dejon Freeman.
With the Phantoms leading 42-22 to start the third quarter, Temple took flight. He started off by scoring their first six points of the period, and then put an exclamation point on the blowout with three consecutive dunks that wowed the packed crowd at Bethel High School and gave Phoebus a 63-25 lead.
“Khyree really gets us going with his ability to get out in transition and finish strong at the rim,” Daniel said. “So one of the things we try to do is to force turnovers and get the ball to him on the break for dunks like those. It demoralizes the other team and gets our fans into it.”
The Phantoms’ advantage swelled to as much as 76-30 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before Daniel began emptying his bench.
Aside from Temple, the Phantoms’ two other senior skyscrapers also made their presence felt. Detionne Leach, a 6-foot-6 forward, had eight points and 10 rebounds, and 6-foot-8 center Adrian Payton finished with six points and 10 rebounds.
Phoebus out-rebounded Culpeper 49-34 and forced a total of 31 turnovers in the game.
“It’s one thing when you face a team that has size like [Phoebus] does,” Culpeper coach James Thompson said. “But when a team has that kind of size and they have that kind of ability on top of it, you have to play a perfect game to beat them. They have next-level talent.”
Culpeper’s Devin Mosley, who entered the game averaging 20 points per contest, finished with just eight points in his final high school game—six of which came on a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s final 1:30.
Junior guard Dejour McCray led the Blue Devils with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Senior forward Will Jamison added nine points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.
As Culpeper’s players filed out of the locker room for the last time this season, Thompson’s sentiments were that of a coach who is proud of what his team was able to accomplish.
“To lose what we did from last year’s team and still win 18 games and make the state tournament, that’s more than you can ask for from these guys,” he said. “I really feel like the guys gave everything they had and were able to reach their ceiling, and they should be very proud of that.”
Culpeper (18-8): JoJo Crenshaw 6, Nazier McDonald 9, Dejour McCray 10, Will Jamison 9, Devin Mosley 8, Jalen Veeney 3. Totals: 17 5-11 45.
Phoebus (24-2): Shakir Dawan 14, Dorian Hill 10, Jovannie Arroyo 0, Mahir Sharif 8, Antwan Edwards 0, Khyree Temple 20, Adrian Payton 6, Nasir Craven 8, Kareem Zarif 4, Detionne Leach 8, Dejon Freeman 6. Totals: 36 8-11 84.
3-pointers: Culpeper 6 (McDonald 2, McCray 2, Mosley 2). Phoebus 4 (Dawan 2, Hill, Sharif).