After swamping Monacan, thumping GW-Danville and completely dismantling Jamestown, the Loudoun Valley Vikings left absolutely no doubt about who owns VHSL Group 4A. Now they’ve turned small-town Purcellville into a big-time hoops Titletown.
Final score –
Jamestown Eagles (27-3) 8 17 10 13 = 48
Loudoun Valley Vikings (30-1) 24 18 15 23 = 80
Loudoun Valley scorers –
Points: Jordan Miller 26, Nick Ball 19, Dominic Peterson 14, Duron Norris 8, Jalen Williams 5, Jamir DeGree 4, Nick Dize 2, Clyde Volker 2
Three-pointers: Peterson 4, Ball 1, Williams 1
Free throws: Ball 6-6, Miller 4-4, DeGree 2-2, Norris 0-1
Jamestown scorers –
Points: Mason Wang 13, Ryan Jones 9, Michael Schmidt 8, Ryan Devine 7, Diamonte Brown 6, Braden Exton 2, Evan Wang 2, Colin Boll 1
Three-pointers: Jones 3, Devine 2, M. Wang 1
Free throws: Brown 2-2, E. Wang 2-2, Boll 1-2, Devine 1-2, Chase Dively 0-2
Siegel Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va. (March 10, 2017) — The biggest game of the year – of his career – was moments away from tip-off, and Chad Dawson saw a problem. A good problem.
As his team focused in full-on preparation mode, the veteran head coach of the Vikings of Loudoun Valley High School scanned that band of young men getting ready to play for the ultimate hoops prize – a first-ever opportunity in his, their, or the school’s entire history.
The problem was, they were too ready.
“We had to reel ’em in in the locker room. They were ready to go play,” said Dawson, recalling a time just a couple hours either, before the Vikings were state champs. “They were so excited. You could see it in their faces.”
Whatever Dawson, the 14th-year helmsman of boys’ basketball at Western Loudoun’s venerable 56-year-old educational institution, said to “reel ’em in,” it must’ve worked. Everything the Vikings tried afterward certainly did.
Emerging from the labyrinth that is the Stuart C. Siegel Center in downtown Richmond to take their rightful place on the Virginia High School League‘s championship stage, the Vikings appeared business-like and determined as they ran through pre-game warmups. Sporting deep-green shirts emblazoned Viking Strong, the Valley players didn’t exchange a lot of words during the layup line. There was work to be done.
They got ‘er done. Oh man did they ever. The Vikings didn’t simply win the game against the Eagles of Jamestown High School, finally claiming that elusive state championship. They seized it, embraced it, never came close to letting it go, demanding an ownership over it which they never relinquished – all while thoroughly dominating the floor during virtually every one of the game’s 32 minutes.
At no point after the opening moments was the Vikings’ eventual state-championship triumph in any reasonable doubt. And when the VHSL officials handed the glistening new gold-plated trophy over to a bunch of overjoyed hoopsters from Western Loudoun, they were ready for that too.
The last one to understand the magnitude of the Vikings’ accomplishment will be the Vikings themselves.
“We’ll probably wake up at 2:30 in the morning and realize we’re state champions,” Dawson said. “It sounds kind of surreal right now, but that’s how locked in these guys were at the beginning of the game and through the course of the game.”
“I don’t think it’s really hit us yet,” said senior starter Duron Norris, speaking in the postgame press conference right after the whirlwind of hugs, high-fives, trophy presentations and team photographs. “We knew we could go out and do it, and it’s awesome, but I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet.”
“I feel the same as Duron. It really hasn’t hit me yet,” echoed fellow senior Jamir DeGree. “The amount of work we put it, it felt like it should go our way.”
Senior point guard Nick Ball still had the net draped ceremonially around his neck.
“We’ve been working every day for a long time for this,” said Ball, remembering the Vikings’ brutal disappointment in exiting last year’s state tourney prematurely. “It’s gonna feel weird tomorrow, not waking up for practice.”
Dawson piped up.
“I told them they had tomorrow off,” the coach quipped.
At last, the Vikings got to laugh.
Vikings In Cruise Control
The game’s conclusion seemed foregone soon after it began.
Now, that’s not something you’d hear Dawson, or any other coach, ever say. Jamestown didn’t make the state tourney’s finale by accident. They’d lost just twice all season, and they featured a fivesome of high scorers who aimed to test the Vikings’ vaunted defense. It was to be a game.
But on this night – and in this year – Loudoun Valley was just better. Quicker, stronger, faster, better. Than everybody.
That difference was in evidence as soon as the first ball went up in the air. Five seconds in, Ball elevated to smoothly sink a jumper. After a pair of free throws generated the contest’s only tie at 2-2, junior Dominic Peterson swished an elbow three-pointer, a show of range duplicated soon after by Ball from the same spot.
It was 10-2 two minutes in, Norris had just stuffed back a Jamestown shot, and the rabid Valley student section known as The Jungle made their excitement easily audible.
Four minutes in, the Vikings were up 14-4 and five separate scorers had already made it onto the statsheet. That advantage soon ballooned to 22-6, as the Eagles’ backcourt was hounded by the tenacious defense of DeGree and junior Jalen Williams.
DeGree earned Dawson’s compliment for his penchant for taking charges, which he did throughout the three-game state tournament.
“We learned who their catalyst was, who we shouldn’t let catch the ball,” DeGree said, referring to Jamestown’s Ryan Jones. “Once we realized that, we didn’t let him catch the ball and they couldn’t get open shots.”
Jordan Miller got in on the act with the second quarter’s start. With his long stride, Valley’s 6-foot-6 college-prospect junior forward surged past a parade of Jamestown defenders on his way to the bucket, laying it in despite a slap on the wrist. Miller’s subsequent free throw made it 27-8.
Then it was Peterson’s turn again. The sharpshooter shot-faked, let an Eagle fly past him, reset, resized and released, swishing the ball perfectly through the hoop with nary a touch of iron. The Vikings were doubling up, 34-17.
Peterson finished with four three-pointers in five attempts from beyond the arc.
A 9-0 run pushed the Vikings’ lead to its largest of the first half at 40-17, a huge differential built in part by Valley’s conversion of its first nine free throws. For the game, the Vikings connected on 12 of 13 from the charity stripe.
Jamestown used a long ball at the end of the first half, and another at the start of the second, to edge back to 42-28. But the Eagles’ strategy of hoisting threes to counteract Valley’s lengthy defense bore little fruit, and the margin was back up to 20 at 53-33 with 10 minutes remaining.
With one eye on the expiring clock, Miller eurostepped through the lane to kiss a layup off glass as the third-quarter buzzer sounded, giving The Jungle another reason to erupt in merriment and mirth.
“You can’t stop us,” chanted the Viking partisans. They weren’t gloating. They were reporting.
Peterson hit another three. Norris smartly zipped a pass to Miller underneath for the layin. Their biggest lead in the title tilt grew to 29. Everything was coming up Valley.
With 1:57 left, Dawson pulled the Vikings’ five to a raucous ovation. The championship had been won; now it was basking time.
Senior Cameron Hippler, junior Nick Dize, sophomore Robbie Adams and freshmen Clyde Volker and Trent Dawson got a taste of the state championship action. For good measure, Dize and Volker dropped in buckets.
Miller ended with a game-high 26 points on 11 of 12 shooting and 4 of 4 from the line, while grabbing six rebounds for another game-high. Norris made all four shots he took, adding four assists and three blocks to his all-around effort. Ball dished a game-high seven assists.
Valley shot a robust 70.5 percent as a team, hitting 31 of 44 from the field including six of the 11 three-pointers they launched.
“It seemed like they didn’t miss all game,” lamented a Jamestown player during the Eagles’ postgame press conference.
The Vikings didn’t miss their shot at history, either.
Representing The ‘Ville
For more than half a century, Loudoun Valley High School has been a focal point around which much of life in Western Loudoun has revolved. There’s never been a shortage of pride in the old school and the students it has produced.
But this basketball championship puts an unprecedented spotlight on that pride, making it swell all the more. Even the kids know it.
“I think this brings a name to Purcellville,” Miller said. “We may be small, but we can play big basketball. It opens people’s eyes that just because we’re small doesn’t mean we don’t pack a big punch.”
Norris considered about the Vikings’ notoriously fervent fans.
“The Jungle is just amazing. I’ve never really seen a student section, really, that obnoxious,” he complimented. “The community around us, families, friends, everyone that’s come out to support us, it’s great. Without them we couldn’t get it done.”
Dawson has become something of a Purcellville institution himself, having cultivated Western Loudoun talent into a perennial state-level contender and, now, a bona fide champion – thanks in part to Valley’s structure of support.
“I’m very fortunate to coach in a place like this, with the support we get,” he said. “Fantastic place to coach.”
The coach gave credit to the kids who brought him there.
“They’re one of the best teams I’ve ever seen play high school basketball,” Dawson praised effusively. “I’ve been around basketball my whole life, and these guys are, if not the best team I’ve ever seen play, they’re one of them.”
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications