The boys basketball teams from Potomac Falls and Loudoun Valley high schools entered the Dulles District one-game playoff even.
The Panthers and Vikings both boasted 16-2 district records and split their first two meetings to share the Dulles District regular-season title.
But after the Feb. 9 game at Tuscarora High School in Leesburg, only one team can say it's the No. 1 seed.
Potomac Falls defeated Valley 64-48, securing the top spot in the Dulles District tournament and maintaining the momentum they've been riding since the holiday break. After a rough beginning that included three losses in four days, the Panthers enter the tournament on a 15-game winning streak.
“We were just kind of going through the motions before,” Potomac Falls coach Jeff Hawes said. “The kids were working hard but there was something missing. But they've really brought it together.”
The two teams seemed balanced in the first half. Valley led 18-14 after one quarter before the Panthers outscored the Vikings, 13-6, in the second quarter to gain a 27-24 lead at halftime.
The third quarter, however, was all Panthers. Freshman phenom Michael Janowski, who was held scoreless in the first half, exploded for 13 points in the third quarter, including a three just at the buzzer. The real star of the quarter was the Panthers' tough perimeter defense, which held the Vikings to just eight points, half of which were from the foul line.
Valley pulled within nine midway through the fourth quarter, but point guard D'Shawn Shorts hit a huge three-pointer to stifle the Vikings' momentum.
“Coming from yesterday, I had a weak shooting game. My father got me into the gym early today, put up shots,” Shorts said. “I got my confidence back in the three ball.”
Not only did Potomac Falls limit Valley with smart defensive play, the Panthers had just four turnovers the entire game.
“It's one of the most complete games I've ever had a team play,” Hawes said. “To turn the ball over four times in a high-pressure game like that is phenomenal.”
Potomac Falls' Janowski and Wanya Allen and Valley's Paul Rowley all scored 16 points apiece in the contest. Shorts added 12, with nine from behind the arc. Valley senior Jovon Miller was the only other player in double digits, also scoring 12.
The Panthers and Vikings could play again in the district tournament, but will be on different paths once the regional playoffs begin. Potomac Falls is in Division 4 and Valley in Division 3.
Hawes hopes the teams continue to keep pace with each other well past regionals.
“The way we battle each other, I have a deep respect for them, their kids, their coaches,” Hawes said. “We're going to be rooting for them. I hope we both go a long way.”
Potomac Falls 64, Loudoun Valley 48
PF: Allen 16, Janowski 16, Shorts 12, Thomas 9, Mologne 5, Orbe 2, Fischetti 2, Tondi 2
LV: Rowley 16, Miller 12, Grimard 7, DeLeonardis 5, Smolens 4, Kiani 4
Half: Potomac Falls 27-24
3-pointers: PF 6 (Shorts 3, Janowski 1, Allen 1, Thomas 1); LV: 4 (Rowley 1, Grimmard 1, Kiani 1, Smolens 1)
Free throws: LV (16 of 23); PF (12 of 18)
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