The dream season continued for the Potomac Falls Panthers girls’ basketball team Tuesday night.
A week after claiming the program’s first district championship ever, the Panthers opened the Region 5C tournament with a suffocating defensive performance, winning 30-14 at home versus Stone Bridge in the quarterfinal round.
Blocked shots and steals were the order of the evening for the top-seeded Panthers (19-4), as the visiting eight-seed Bulldogs (8-14) didn’t hit double digits until less than two minutes remained.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” said Potomac Falls 14-year head coach Lynn Ewald, whose team has held opponents to 31 or fewer points on 11 occasions this season. “We knew we had to get out on their shooters and really contest.”
Five different Panthers contributed to the team’s total of eight steals, led by Ella Valente’s three. Meanwhile, the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots, 6-foot-3 junior Paige Anderson, swatted away five.
Junior forward Hope Palmer roused the crowd with an emphatic block of a 3-pointer in the final second of the third quarter.
Already being the owner of a school record, Anderson said, was something she took pride in. She broke Potomac Falls’ previous career mark of 200 blocked shots earlier this season.
“The way our rotations work, it really allows me to go one-on-one with people inside,” the shot-blocker explained. “You just need to judge how high they’ll put the shot off, what angle they’ll come off from, the way their body’s facing to indicate whether they’re going to do a drop-step or something. It’s something you have to learn, something I’ve developed.”
But the biggest cheer Anderson received came when she knocked down an elbow 3-pointer soon after halftime, putting the Panthers up 16-5.
“Coach Ewald’s been telling me to shoot more, and I’ve been practicing,” Anderson said. “It felt really cool.”
Senior guard Ashley Pandelides stood out with a game-high 13 points. Ewald credited the four-year varsity player for helping key the rise of the program, which won just eight games in Pandelides’ freshman year.
“She’s been a rock for us,” said Ewald of Pandelides. “She got some experience playing on some teams that took their lumps. But she’s persevered through it.”
Anderson led all rebounders with nine, while junior Ashley Allen brought down six. For Stone Bridge, juniors Sarah O’Day and Taylor Hafer grabbed six rebounds apiece, while Lauren Fox had three steals. Fox also paced the Bulldogs with six points.
The Panthers will again be at home on Thursday to host a regional semifinal versus Briar Woods, who defeated Thomas Jefferson 57-51 in the quarterfinals.
“We just want to compete against ourselves, not worry about who we’re playing,” Ewald said prior to learning the Panthers' semifinal opponent. “It’s been working pretty good so far.”
Potomac Falls 30, Stone Bridge 14
PF: Pandelides 13, Allen 8, Anderson 5, Palmer 2, Swarm 2
SB: Fox 6, Hafer 5, Cowden 3
Halftime: PF 11-5
3-pointers: PF 2 (Anderson, Pandelides); SB 2 (Cowden, Hafer)
Free throws: PF (6 of 11); SB (1 of 2)