A raucous crowd that overflowed the bleachers was treated to a fourth-quarter slugfest that saw the Freedom Eagles emerge with a 65-59 victory over the host John Champe Knights in boys' basketball Friday night in Aldie.
The lead went back and forth until the Knights tied with game at 57-57 with 1 minute 57 seconds remaining. Senior post player Lance Johnson’s bucket gave the Eagles the lead and, after two clutch free throws in a 1-and-1 by Zach Hoenig, Johnson iced the game with two free throws to make it 63-57 with 17.5 seconds to play. A flurry of 3-point attempts failed to find the mark for Champe.
Freedom, which reached the Virginia High School League Class 5 state final last year, improved to 7-4. Champe, Loudoun's only Class 6 school, fell to 7-3 under first-year coach Water Webb.
The Knights pulled out a 64-60 victory over Freedom in their previous match-up Dec. 20, so the Eagles were able to settle the score with their geographic rivals.
“These games are always fun,” Freedom coach Justin Powers said. “Last year was weird, because both games were blowouts and we each won one, but this year both games came down to the wire.”
Senior Robbie Kemmerer led the Eagles’ balanced scoring with 13 points, while Johnson added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Lance was in foul trouble all game, which is a problem,” Powers said. “That is something we definitely have to address, but when he was in the game he did some really good things. He made some good rebounds and had some good defensive stops.”
Senior Nick Westfall added four points and 12 rebounds, and Powers also credited the play of senior wingman Anish Kalyan, who added six points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Kalyan scored the last five points of the third quarter, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that brought Freedom within three points entering the fourth quarter.
“I think the turning point, honestly, was when Anish came in and he was a spark plug for us,” Powers said. “He hit that 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and he did a great job on defense on Tyler (Savage).”
Jalen Jasper led John Champe with 18 points, followed by Savage with 14 and James Jasper with 10.
Webb’s team led much of the first quarter before falling behind 38-31 at the half. The Knights scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to regain the lead and held a 50-42 advantage late in the third quarter.
“We just need to be patient and we need to be consistent, and that’s part of building a successful program,” Webb said. “It was a tie ballgame with two minutes to play and we stopped them four times, but we rushed and took [3-point shots] that we didn’t need to.”
Powers said his team showed a lot of good things in the victory but also revealed some things to work on.
“We turned it over way too much,” Powers said. “The best thing from this is that we both learned things that will only make the teams better.”
Girls: Champe clamps down defensively for 34-27 win over Freedom
Like a boa constrictor slowly tightens its grip each time its prey exhales, John Champe's constant, relentless pressure wore down Freedom for a 34-27 victory in a girls' basketball rivalry game Friday on the Knights' home court in Aldie.
John Champe junior Jordyn Wilson, with 10 points, was the only player hitting double figures in the game. The Knights' main weapon was a dogged, man-to-man defense. By the end of the game, the Eagles had almost as many turnovers as points.
"I thought we played well on defense for four quarters," Champe first-year coach Warner Dyke said. "We just sat down and guarded them. We have been working on man since I got here and they are starting to buy into it and believe they can play good defense. Tonight, I thought we played fantastic on the defensive end."
Early on, Freedom (5-6) was getting the better of the defensive struggle, leading 8-4 at the end of the first quarter. Through that scoring slump, Champe's defense kept the Knights (3-6) close until the offensive output kicked in.
"We just had trouble scoring in spurts," Dyke said. "The whole first quarter, when we only scored four points, it seemed like the basket had a lid on it. A lot of times when that happens the kids stop playing hard and we give up baskets. We didn't do that tonight."
After leading 2-0 to start the game, Champe didn't lead again until 14-13 with 1:32 left before halftime.
The Knights' suffocating defense continued to take its toll on Freedom, forcing turnovers on four straight possessions at one stretch in the third quarter. A three-point play by Wilson as time expired made the game 29-20 after three periods, and the lead was never less than five the rest of the way.
Tatiana Galindo added six points for Champe, who avenged a 47-43 loss to Freedom on Dec. 20. Regan Moore and Peyton Hoffman each scored five points for the Knights.
Senior Brenna Haley scored seven points, while Morgan Koeneke and Grace Farrar added six each for Freedom.
"We started out strong, but then we stopped running our offense," Freedom coach Teddy Whitney said. "They did a great job rushing us today and speeding up the tempo and that's something we're not used to. They were very physical with us. We couldn't get the shots we wanted."
Boys: Freedom, 65, John Champe 59
F: Kemmerer 13, Johnson 11, Bokman 9, Hoenig 9, Kalyan 6, Easter 5, Westfall 4, Jones 3, Wolin 3, Harrison 2
JC: Jal. Jasper 18, Savage 14, Jam. Jasper 10, Mahfooz 5, Carter 4, Thorpe 3, Sweeney 3, Greziak 2
Halftime: Freedom 38-31
3-pointers: F 8 (Kemmerer 3, Wolin, Easter, Bokman, Hoenig, Kalyan); JC 5 (Jal. Jasper 4, Mahfooz, Savage, Thorpe, Sweeney)
Free throws: F (9 of 14); JC (5 of 8)
Girls: John Champe 34, Freedom 27
F: Haley 7, Farrar 6, Koeneke 6, Maier 4, Devitt 4
JC: Wilson 10, Galindo 6, Moore 5, Hoffman 5, Armstrong 3, Favis 3, Kotadiya 2
Halftime: John Champe 15-13
3-pointers: F 1 (Devitt); JC 1 (Favis)
Free throws: F (10 of 19); JC (19 of 27)