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UPDATED: Loudoun Valley holds off Handley in front of capacity crowd

Loudoun Valley senior Jalen Williams scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half to help the Vikings build a 32-30 halftime lead.—Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
In the center of a Loudoun Valley High School gymnasium packed to the rafters, Mark Melbourne stood alone. His Viking teammates stood behind him in silence, though the fans on both sides screamed at him; most for, some against.

His Vikings, leaders on the scoreboard all game long, were being challenged at the end by the visiting John Handley Judges. It was 72-66 with 45 seconds left and the Judges - who trailed by 15 in the third quarter - were charging fast.

Melbourne spun the basketball in his hands, then set and shot. Swish. He did it again, nothing but net. Then two more times, calmly converting all four technical-foul free throws to instantly up Valley’s lead to 10.

“I just wanted to make those free throws for my team,” Melbourne said. “It was a close game coming down to the wire, so I just blocked everything out and focused on my form.”

That margin endured the final seconds as Loudoun Valley earned a hard-fought 78-68 win Jan. 6 against Handley, the same school the Vikings edged by one to claim last year’s 4A West Region championship.

The rematch result moves the reigning Class 4 state champion Vikings to 9-1, while Handley falls to 9-1.

Melbourne was a star among stars for Loudoun Valley. The senior dropped in a season-high 26 points - five off his career high of 31 - including a pair of early 3-pointers to set the Vikings’ offensive tone.

“Coach [Chad Dawson] is always telling us to stay ready to shoot at all times,” Melbourne said. “We have so many weapons on the court, when we score inside, that leaves shots open outside. The whole team dynamic works together.”

The Vikings were hot with their outside shot in the early going, canning the first five 3-pointers they took. Long balls by Melbourne, Jalen Williams and Trent Dawson propelled Loudoun Valley to a 27-14 advantage after one quarter.

After the Vikings kept their lead throughout the second, they grew it in the third. Dawson nailed a 3-pointer, then used active hands to steal the ball right back. The Viking crowd known as “The Jungle” was energized.

Following a quiet first half, Loudoun Valley’s George Mason University commit Jordan Miller made noise with 15 points in the second. After Handley went on a 10-0 run to cut the Vikings’ margin to five, Miller drove for a three-point play, banked home a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third, and opened the fourth with a two-handed slam dunk.

The Vikings led 57-45 after Miller found Melbourne for an open layup, but the Judges worked it back to 66-62 with two minutes left.

That set the stage for Melbourne to finish what he started and secure the tough non-conference victory for the Vikings.

Loudoun Valley head coach Chad Dawson said the four quarters his team put together against Handley constituted its best effort yet this winter.

“We work on late-game situations, and close games come down to free throw shooting,” the veteran coach said. “This group is senior-laden and this season is an opportunity for our senior captains Jalen, Dominic [Peterson] and Jordan to really lead. They’ve done a great job of that so far.”

Loudoun Valley 78, Handley 68

LV: Melbourne 26, Miller 18, Williams 15, Dawson 10, Peterson 5, Volker 4

H: Brown 21, Wise 17, James 12, Curry 9, Morris 4, Long 3, Martin 2

Halftime: LV 32-20

3-pointers: LV 10 (Williams 3, Dawson 2, Melbourne 2, Miller 2, Peterson); H 5 (Wise 3, Brown, Long)

Free throws: LV 20 of 28; H 9 of 13

Photos by Rick Wasser


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