“It was pretty depressing,” Kuzemka said. “Everyone was thinking they would cancel, and we saw some other states do it. … For a while there, cases were rising, some of my friends were getting [sick], and I thought, ‘Man, this may not happen for me.’ ”
At a time when many local schools have not been able to play, Kuzemka and his teammates were given a condensed and slightly chaotic basketball season. And the senior is continuing to make the most of it, scoring a game-high 26 points Wednesday night to lead the host Wildcats to a 64-55 win over Hayfield in the Virginia Class 6 semifinals.
“Just to be back out here, wearing the Centreville colors again, is a blessing,” Kuzemka said.
The Wildcats (13-2) reached the Class 6 championship game for the second straight season. Last year, their finals matchup with South County, scheduled to take place March 14, was canceled in the early days of the pandemic.
“Our message to the team since the beginning of this season has been prepare every day as if it could end tomorrow and play every game as if it’s the state championship game because you never know when this could end,” Wildcats Coach Kevin Harris said. “Last year, that’s exactly what happened to us.”
Hayfield, making its first appearance in a state semifinal since 2002, posed a potential matchup problem for Centreville. The Hawks (13-2) threatened to run right past the towering Wildcats. But that size advantage proved more valuable Wednesday as senior forward Avery Ford, a first-team All-Met selection last season, dominated the boards and chipped in 18 points.
“When we have the advantage, I always know that it’s going to be a physical game down low and the refs not going to give me anything,” Ford said. “I tried to match their energy and stay as strong as I can with the ball.”
Hayfield built momentum late in the third, cutting the lead to five with frenetic defense and smooth transition baskets. Kuzemka, who took home district and region player of the year honors, quieted the commotion with two quick buckets to start the fourth quarter. From there, the Wildcats kept a comfortable lead until the final buzzer.
Centreville will face Potomac in the Class 6 championship game Saturday. The Panthers beat Landstown, 79-73, in the other semifinal Wednesday.