They led by 15 when the Region 5A North semifinal showdown was 10 minutes old. But the Potomac Falls Panthers saw that lead dwindle, dwindle and dwindle some more…until the visitors finally grabbed ahold.
Final score –
Potomac Panthers (22-2) 5 12 15 18 = 50
Potomac Falls Panthers (19-7) 16 11 9 7 = 43
Potomac Falls scorers –
Points: David Walls 16, Ian Anderson 10, Christian Sweazie 8, Brian Sweeney 6, Grant Misch 2, Alex Nemer 1
Free throws: Sweazie 2-2, Anderson 2-5, Walls 2-6, Nemer 1-2, Misch 0-4
Potomac scorers –
Points: Nana Opoku 16, Ely Camp 9, Jamal Washington 9, Edward White 7, Devon McDonald 5, Byron Scriber 2, Jaylen Williams 2
Three-pointers: McDonald 1, Washington 1, White 1
Free throws: Opoku 4-4, Washington 2-3, Camp 3-5, White 2-4
Potomac Falls High School, Sterling, Va. (February 23, 2017) — Free throws giveth, and free throws taketh away.
By no means was what we saw Thursday night how a typical basketball game goes for the Panthers of Potomac Falls High School. They scored as many points in the first quarter as they did the entire second half. Star senior guard Brian Sweeney was held without a point after halftime.
Bigs Ian Anderson and Grant Misch were in foul trouble from the third quarter on, and the Panthers didn’t connect on a single three-pointer; in fact, they didn’t even try very many.
And oh!, those accursed free throws.
It was making FTs that put PF in the region semi in the first place…and it was missing them that sealed the Panthers’ fate versus the defending state champion Panthers of Potomac High School in their Region 5A North semifinal clash.
“Obviously the free throws were huge. We were 21 for 25 on Tuesday night [in a 63-62 home win over Patrick Henry in the region quarterfinal] and made some huge ones, or we wouldn’t have been here,” recounted Potomac Falls head coach Jeff Hawes. “But that was disappointing. They’re good, they’re tough, but we felt like we could play with them and we did. We feel like we let it get away.”
Potomac Falls didn’t lose just because they missed 11 of their 17 unguarded 15-foot set shots, including a stack of bricks in the game’s closing minutes. But that’s a big reason why the hallway walls took a beating on the team’s walk back to the locker room.
The region-semi loss ends the Panthers’ 13-game win streak, but not much else. The dudes from Potomac Falls are guaranteed two more outings: the regional consolation contest Saturday at home versus Wakefield, and the state quarterfinal March 3 at Hampton University.
But the penalty for the setback is a diminished seed in the upcoming Group 5A state meet.
It’s not how you start…
The Panther crowd was ready and loud for Viva Loudoun’s Hottest Hoops Of The Week against Prince William County’s Panthers, a powerhouse program sporting a senior-heavy group still fresh from its latest state title last year.
The Panther Pit student section was positively electric all night, supercharged from the start. Senior stars Sweeney and David Walls obliged them with the game’s first points, and Anderson made them roar with a flying tip-back of an offensive rebound.
Everything was coming up PF. Even Hawes had a particularly sharp sound to his famous foot-stomps.
Potomac Falls went up 12-5 almost right away. Hawes flailed his arms to implore more energy from the hometown crowd, which was delighted to provide it. Walls juked for a smooth turnaround jumper, pumping his fist as it fell through; Sweeney got loose after a defensive steal for a strong run-out take. The Pit went wild.
“We came in with a good mindset and a good gameplan. We felt like we could beat them in our house,” Hawes said. “But we knew they were going to take a big swing at us.”
An 8-0 run put the home team up 20-5, keyed by the 6-foot-6 Anderson’s glass-slapping block of a layup from behind.
Potomac (the other Panthers) hung in. Their own 6-foot-6er, Mount St. Mary’s-bound Nana Opoku, grew more active in the post. He turned in a three-point play to help the road side get within 10 at the half.
Opoku’s growing dominance continued into the third. Another and-one brought Potomac to within four at the four-minute mark, a margin which persisted until the early stages of the final quarter.
The suspense grew as the game tightened. The loose balls became even more fiercely contested, the bumping a little more aggressive, the post-whistle stares between opposing players a little more meaningful. It started off serious and got seriouser.
Potomac took its first lead with 4:30 left in the final frame, as senior guard Ely Camp rolled home a runner. It was the first of five lead changes in short succession, and the tally stood at 44-43, Potomac, with 1:50 on the clock.
By then the Panthers’ temporary penchant for missing free throws was front and center. Walls missed a pair. Misch clanged two. Alex Nemer salvaged the last of two, but Anderson couldn’t find the first of a one-and-one.
When Potomac’s Edward White sank two freebies with under a minute to go, Hawes gave the floor a little kick.
“I think this shows we can play with anybody in the state,” Hawes said. “We’re going to iron out the things we can do better, and get ourselves ready to go.”
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications