Two recent boys basketball state championship banners already hang on the gym wall at Colonial Forge High School. If the Eagles win another, Josh Sarratt might want it to be in a different design or color.
“They compare us to the old Colonial Forge teams,” Sarratt said after Friday night’s 75–60 Region 6B semifinal victory over Manchester earned the Eagles their first state tournament berth since 2015.
“But we’re a new breed of Colonial Forge basketball. We do it a new way. No disrespect to the old teams. They were legendary teams. But we play a new breed of basketball. We’re trying to earn everyone’s respect. I don’t think they respect us.”
Whoever “they” are has to regard the Eagles (15–9) a bit more highly after their 11th straight victory, a wire-to-wire virtuoso performance over the same school that eliminated Sarratt and the previously unbeaten Eagles in last fall’s regional football final.
Friday’s victory—held at North Stafford due to a scheduling conflict at the Eagles’ gym—erased “a little bit” of that sting, according to Sarratt. It was predicated on a hot start, sparked by senior Joshua Osakwe, and a clinic in team defense.
Colonial Forge broke an early 2–2 tie with a 12–0 run and never trailed. Osakwe scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter, and the Eagles forced the Lancers (12–11) to miss eight of their first nine shots.
“Early on, I wasn’t thinking too much,” Osakwe said. “I was just playing the game my way.”
On the other end, Colonial Forge put on a clinic of help defense. The Lancers’ quick guards often beat their primary defender and penetrated into the lane, but there was usually an Eagle waiting to defend the rim.
“Defense is something we key on,” first-year Eagles coach Anthony Mills said. “We spend a lot of time working on it. They have really good guards who can get to the basket. But we did a good job of helping.”
Led by Collin Harding (18 points) and Brandon Majette (11), the Lancers battled back, closing the third quarter on a 6–0 run and scoring the first basket of the fourth period to pull within 52–46.
Then came the game’s key sequence. Osakwe drained a 3-pointer from the right corner, and after a Manchester turnover, Martin Kawa scored on a drive and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Trevor Franklin grabbed the offensive rebound and, after the Eagles reset their offense, hit a 3-pointer of his own to stretch the lead back to 14.
“We’ve had several games this year where we’ve trailed at halftime and came back,” Manchester coach Josh Karlson said. “What shell-shocked us was that they punched us in the mouth. They definitely play at a different level, a different speed, and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Kawa finished with 19 points and Sarratt played his normal solid all-around game for the Eagles, who will visit top-seeded James River in Tuesday’s regional final before heading to the state tournament.
“It means a lot for this community,” Mills said, “and for these guys. They’ve been working so hard to make this happen.”
Manchester (12-11): Collin Harding 18, Brandon Majette 11, Alquis Smith 13, Michael Gilchrist 2, Joe Moore 10, Alston Robinson 2, Jeremiah Hutton 4. Totals: 23 9-12 60.
Colonial Forge (15-9): Antonio McIlwain 9, L.T. Woods 4, Martin Kawa 19, Trevor Franklin 3, Nick Ellington 2, Josh Osakwe 21, Elijah Sarratt 6, Josh Sarratt 9, Josiah Jones 0. Totals: 30 9-10 75.
3-pointers: Manchester 5 (Smith 3, Harding, Moore); CF 6 (E. Sarratt 2, McIlwain, Franklin, Osakwe, J. Sarratt).