|The Loudoun County Raiders impressive run to the state final four concluded March 6 following a 51-38 loss to Salem in the Virginia Division 4 girls basketball semifinals.—Times-Mirror File Photo/Doug Stroud|
There were no excuses in the wake of Loudoun County High School's 51-38 loss to Salem in the Virginia Division 4 girls basketball semifinals.
The potential for cop-outs abounded: a youthful roster, unfamiliarity with the opponent, and even a late-season snowstorm could have explained the Raiders coming up short March 6 in Richmond.
But Loudoun County head coach Derek Fisher wasn’t buying any of it.
“We weren’t surprised by anything they did, but they did their job better than we did our job today,” said Fisher.
The Raiders held serve in the first half, actually shooting a hair better from the field (34.8%) than the Spartans over the first two quarters.
In the second half, Loudoun County’s offensive focus changed. They launched 13 shots from 3-point range, as opposed to just three in the first half. Only two fell.
“We probably settled for a few [looks] that we don’t like, although we knew that we were going to have to take some threes,” explained Fisher.
On the defensive end of the floor, the Raiders became increasingly unable to slow a Spartan attack that was equally comfortable running the court or breaking down into its half-court set.
“Defensively, we felt like we probably should have been able to play a little bit better, but most of our troubles probably had something to do with them,” said Fisher.
One major problem for the Raiders was the play of Salem guard Tay Taylor. The Wake Forest University commit went off to the tune of 24 points. She was effective in the post and with her mid-range jumper, often ceasing a drive to pull up without warning.
“We knew there was going to be some difficulty,” said Fisher. “I think anyone who’s playing them knows she’s [Taylor] going to get some points.”
It was the second time in less than 24 hours that Salem High School ended a Loudoun team’s run at states. On March 5, Potomac Falls bowed to the Spartan boys, 76-69.
Loudoun County, whose roster boasts no seniors, is primed for another state tournament run next year, but the Raiders were firmly grounded in the here-and-now.
“We get really caught up trying to win,” said junior Maggie Phillips, who posted a team-high 12 points. “That’s our main goal, to win a state championship… Now that it’s over and we think back, we’re going to be happy with how the season turned out, making a way for ourselves.”
Fisher noted that his team’s inexperience is an argument that doesn’t carry much weight at this point.
“This is our 30th game, our freshmen aren’t really freshmen anymore,” he said. "They’ve played 30 games. So at some point, that goes out the window.”
But even Fisher can’t help thinking that his team played over its head this season, finishing runner-up in both the district and regional tournaments before a final-four appearance in states.
“It’s hard for me to blame anyone for predicting us to be third or fourth in the district,” said Fisher. “We maxed out our potential.”
Salem 51, Loudoun County 38
LC: Phillips 12, Paige 9, Knox 6, Gianelos 4, Kushner 3, Gillis 2, Van Nuys 2
S: Taylor 24, Plympton 8, Migliarese 7, T. Foley 6, Dennis 2, M. Foley 2, Maxwell 2
Halftime: Salem, 23-19
3-pointers: LC 2 (Knox, Kushner); S: none
Free throws: LC (10 of 20); S (15 of 24)
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