The Potomac Falls High School boys basketball team hit a rough patch early in the season.
After winning their first four games, the Panthers dropped three of the next four, falling to Broad Run, Loudoun Valley and Heritage. The spell was unusual for the Panthers, a team who has been to the state tournament the past three years, winning the VHSL Division 4 state title in both 2010 and 2011.
“We were not doing a lot of things we pride ourself on in Panther basketball,” Potomac Falls Jeff Hawes said. “After that Heritage loss, we had a 45-minute sit-down before we even left the locker room.”
The players and coaches regrouped and took on an extra intensity in practices, hoping to overcome the shortcomings the experienced early on in the season.
Their efforts have been rewarded. The once-struggling Potomac Falls is now surging, having won seven games in a row.
“We started off slow at the beginning of the season,” sophomore forward Wanya Allen said. “Over the break we got our stuff together. Now we’re playing as a team and getting good wins.”
Potomac Falls proved its newfound energy Jan. 11, overwhelming crosstown rival Dominion 77-51.
The host Titans initially stayed close, even capturing a 6-5 lead early in the first quarter. But successful perimeter shooting and two steals from freshman superstar Michael Janowski that led to scores pulled the Panthers ahead 22-13 to end the first quarter.
Dominion went on a 9-4 run to start the second quarter to come within one. But the Panthers went on a run of their own, scoring eight unanswered points before the Titans could finally put one in to give Potomac Falls a 34-27 lead going into halftime.
After letting the Titans come within two early in the third quarter, the Panther offense exploded, wrapping up the third quarter with a 54-40 lead. Potomac Falls further built on the lead when they outscored Dominion 23-11 in the final quarter of play.
The Panthers continued to excel from the perimeter in the second half, notching four of their seven 3-pointers in the third and fourth quarters.
Allen had a game-high 23 points, while Janowski added 17. Deandre Thomas, a junior transfer from Herndon, added 16 points of his own, including nine from behind the arc.
“We’re very excited to have him,” Hawes said of Thomas. “He immediately bought into what we’re doing. He’s a big bonus for us.”
Sophomore Lael Davis led Dominion with 14 points, while Titans Sharmarke Warsame and Yazeed Atariwa had 11 and 10 points respectively.
Following their victory over their rivals, the Panthers traveled to Broad Run Jan. 12, where they avenged the earlier season loss, winning 78-62 for their seventh consecutive victory.
For Hawes, each game is just another step in the right direction, one he hopes will take them to Richmond.
“Everybody’s buying into what we’re doing and every day they’re working hard,” Hawes said. “We get a little better every game.”
Potomac Falls 77, Dominion 51
PF: Allen 20, Janowski 17, Thomas 16, Shorts 6, Orbe 4, Fischetti 4, Flowers 4, Tondi 4, Braxton 2
D: Davis 14, Warsame 11, Atariwa 10, Ferguson 6, Alaeian 4, Boyd 3, Robinson 2
Halftime: Potomac Falls, 34-27
3-pointers: PF 7 (Thomas 3, Janowski 2, Allen 2); D 3 (Davis 2, Boyd)
Free throws: PF (12 of 19); D (10 of 23)
-All photos by Beverly Denny
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