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Panthers rebound into familiar territory

Potomac Falls players rejoice with the championship trophy after the Panthers collected their fourth consecutive Region II Division 4 boys basketball title Feb. 23. Potomac Falls defeated Millbrook 63-53 in the final.—Times-Mirror Photo/Greg Nash
Potomac Falls Panthers

-Coach: Jeff Hawes
-Bracket: AA Division 4 boys
-Record: 25-4
-State titles: 2
-First round: March 2 vs. Chancellor, 2:45 p.m. at Robinson Secondary School
-All-District players: So. Wanya Allen (first team), Fr. Michael Janowski (second team)

When the Potomac Falls boys' basketball team suffered three losses out of four games over nine days in early December, it didn't seem like the Panthers would have their usual bite this season.

Any rumors of a Potomac Falls decline on the hardwood would have been greatly exaggerated.

"Once we had those losses, we came together and decided we wanted to get here, we wanted to get wins," said senior guard D'Shawn Shorts, one of the leaders of a players-only meeting after that third setback.

Now in late February on the eve of the Division 4 state tournament, the Panthers are still playing, having just captured their fourth consecutive Region II championship.

They enter the ultimate tournament at 25-4, with only one loss in the last 21 games, seeking their third state title in four years.

Maintaining a high level of perennial success is par for coach Jeff Hawes' course, even after an uncharacteristically rough stretch.

"We were just kind of going through the motions a little bit, nothing serious, but something was just missing," said the only head boys' basketball coach in Potomac Falls' 16-year history. "We had a big heart-to-heart, told each other that things were going to change."

The Panthers evidently kept that promise to themselves.

"It's been a whole different atmosphere every day since then, on the bus, in the locker room," Hawes said.

Hawes has spoken often about his longtime desire to develop a program which can serve as a point of pride for its community, for the students, parents, youth coaches and former players.

"[Lukas] Mihalovich texted me before the game and asked who we play tonight," said Hawes, referring to a former Panther star. "Who do 'we' play tonight, he said. That's what I'm talking about."

As for current Panthers, there are no particular leaders.

"At this point, all of them. They're all important to us," Hawes said. "We always preach depth."

That depth will be tested in the state quarterfinal round March 2 versus Region I runner-up Chancellor at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax.


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