By Jason S Rufner
Special to Viva Loudoun
Purcellville (Jan. 31, 2014) – In a literal “old-school” rivalry matching two of the most tenured institutions in Loudoun, the Loudoun Valley Vikings surged 19 points up in the third quarter only to see the Loudoun County Raiders storm back within two in a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
Ultimately, Valley survived with a 67-62 boys basketball victory Jan. 30 on their home floor in Purcellville.
“We’re fortunate to come out with the victory, but I definitely think you learn more when you have to make foul shots, you have to make a play, than if it stays a 19-point lead,” Valley’s veteran coach Chad Dawson said.
While much of the Raider Riot made the trip west to support County, the Viking Jungle was in full-throated effect for Valley as the respective student sections made it loud in Loudoun.
More than traditional pride was at stake. First place in the Dulles District — important for seeding in the rapidly approaching postseason — would be granted solely to the winner.
The Vikings, defeated just once in their last 10 contests, take the top position with a 7-1 Dulles record, 14-3 overall. The Raiders, now 6-2 in-district and 10-8 overall, slip into a second-place tie with Dominion in the loss column.
The game’s first three quarters didn’t give the impression it would be close. Valley scored the first nine points and didn’t trail by fewer than six until the final frame was underway, thanks largely to smothering defense against County’s potent shooting attack.
“This could be the best defensive team we’ve ever had,” Dawson said. “We can shut people down when we’re mentally ready.”
County coach Mark Alexander was blunt in his assessment.
“We were terrible for three quarters,” he said. “This team has been inconsistent at times. If we play consistent basketball, we can score and do the things to win.”
When Valley’s 6-foot-8 senior forward Paul Rowley — bound to play Division I at the College of William & Mary — swished his fifth 3-pointer of the night late in the third, it did more than give the Vikings a 41-25 lead.
Rowley’s right-elbow bomb broke the school’s record for baskets made from beyond the arc, giving him 122 to go up one over the totals of T.J. Dorsey and Rowley’s old teammate John Yoxthimer.
“He’s worked so hard on his shot that when he gets a regular look, it’s a great shot,” Dawson said. “He’s earned it. He’s put the time in and made himself a phenomenal shooter. It’s fun to watch.”
But the final celebration would still be a ways off. Several minutes into the fourth quarter, the Raiders began to creep back. Their defense improved just as the Vikings’ defense let up.
A series of buckets from Ethan Walker’s hot hand, including a pair of triples, helped County edge back. The Raiders’ leading scorer on the season, Quad Borup, finally found his first point with less than five minutes left.
“We started to play like we can play…. Shots started to fall and we showed a little more juice there,” Alexander said. “I’m proud of them. We had a chance and that’s all I ask. They showed a lot of character in coming back. They don’t quit.”
A Valley 18-point advantage with 3:15 on the clock fell to nine points with 1:45 showing. County sophomore Kyle Stocks — out injured most of the season — drilled a huge 3-pointer to cut the margin to six with 50 seconds remaining.
As 22.8 seconds gleamed on the scoreboard, Borup calmly nailed four consecutive free throws — two on a shooting foul, two on a technical foul — to make the scoreboard read 64-62.
Michael Irving missed a pair from the charity stripe for Valley, and County had a last-moment chance to tie. But the Raiders turned the ball over before getting a shot off, and the Vikings’ Darius DeGree responded with a baseline drive for a big layup with 10 seconds left.
DeGree, who finished with a season-best 15 points, added a free throw to secure the win for the Vikings.
The old-time rivals split their only two meetings this season. (County knocked off Valley 52-48 in overtime Dec. 13 in Leesburg.) Under the newly implemented postseason format, district tournaments will no longer be held and the two are placed in separate conferences.
The Vikings get scant time to celebrate as they play at Park View Jan. 31, while County will be back in Purcellville on Feb. 4 to take on Woodgrove.
Loudoun Valley 67, Loudoun County 62
1 2 3 4
LC 6 10 14 32 – 62
LV 13 9 19 24 – 67
LV (14-3): Rowley 23, DeGree 15, McDyre 13, Bowyer 6, Deleonardis 5, Irving 3, Grayson 2
LC (10-8): Walker 26, Borup 15, Herring 11, Stocks 5, Cummings 4, Crews-Naylor 1
Free throws: LV 20-33; LC 19-22
3-point goals: LV 6 (Rowley 5, McDyre); LC 8 (Walker 4, Herring 3, Stocks)