Going against the state's most explosive offensive team, Hampton's task was pretty simple: Control the pace, create fewer possessions, and win.
The Crabbers went 3-for-3.
With a smothering defense and a monster night from undersized post man Sammie Royal, Hampton rolled over Henrico 74-60 Wednesday night in a Group AAA semifinal at Siegel Center. The Crabbers (26-5) advanced to their first state final since 1997, their last championship season.
Hampton will go against Petersburg, which defeated Kecoughtan 77-56 earlier Wednesday, in Friday's 8:45 p.m. championship. It will be a matchup of perhaps the two best guards in the state: The Crabbers Anthony Barber and the Crimson Wave's Frank Mason.
Royal led the Crabbers with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Jordan Baker added 17 and Barber 16.
Henrico, which came in averaging nearly 84 points a game, was held to 43 percent shooting form the field and its third-lowest point total of the season.
"Most people associate controling the tempo with defense," Henrico coach Vance Harmon said. "But they really controlled the tempo with their offense. That goes back to Barber. He gets the ball and he controls it on a college-length floor where you can spread it. He's really, really good at that. It's virtually impossible to trap and contain him."
Baker went 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He also had four assists, three steals, and no turnovers in 31 minutes.
"I haven't played well in my opinion since the Nansemond River game," he said, referring to the Eastern Region quarterfinals. "I had to step it up tonight because I didn't want to send our seniors out with nothing less than a chance to win it."
Maybe the game's biggest swing came after Henrico (28-3) had cut Hampton's lead in half to six at 43-37 with 4:03 left in the third quarter. After Tre Perry hit a jumper, the Baker came up with a steal and was fouled on a drive.
As he was making his way to the line, Henrico's Jordan Talley was called for a technical foul, apparently for mouthing off at a Hampton player. Baker went 3-for-4 from the line, and on the ensuing possession Barber's drive made it 50-37.
After a Henrico miss, Baker scored underneath to give the Crabbers their biggest lead to that point, 54-40 with a minute left in the third quarter.
And Hampton, usually pretty solid with the endgame, held on. The reward a spot in the state championship game for the first time in 15 years.
"It's been a very long time," Crabber assistant Eric Brown said. "We've had some teams come through here who were talented, and this team is talented. But they're so close on and off the floor. That '97 group was the very same way. I know these guys get tired of me telling them war stories about Ronald Curry, Bobby Blizzard and Aaron Chambliss, all those guys. But they remind me of them.
Next up is Petersburg, which hasn't won a state championship since Moses Malone was around. All eyes will be on the Barber-Mason matchup.
"It'll be a great game to be a part of," Baker said. "Not saying it'll be fun to watch while I'm playing, but I might stare if they get matched up against each other."
HAMPTON 74, HENRICO 60
HENRICO (28-3): Smith 5, Jones 19, Talley 13, Allen 9, White 8, Thorpe 6. 22 11-17 60.
HAMPTON (26-5): Baker 17, Barber 16, Jackson 12, Adams 4, T. Perry 6, Royal 19. 27 18-26 74.