Leesburg, Va. (March 5, 2015) — Don’t let the 51-31 final score fool you. When the fourth quarter began, this was anybody’s ballgame.
That’s when the Loudoun County Raiders found something and turned it on, outscoring visiting Chancellor 21-5 in the last stanza to take the 4A North semifinal contest and the berth in the state tournament that comes with it.
“These were two pretty evenly matched teams. It looked like in the fourth quarter our depth paid off a little bit,” said County head coach Derek Fisher after his team’s 23rd win in a row. “Sometimes things start rolling and momentum can shift that way, but the 20-point final was misleading.”
County (25-1) notched the first 11 points of the final frame, thanks almost entirely to their own No. 11. Junior guard Alyssa Paige nailed a 3-pointer 15 seconds in for the Raiders’ biggest-to-then lead of seven.
Paige, whom Fisher called “our closer,” put in 12 of her 15 points during that decisive fourth.
“We definitely go on runs,” Paige said. “My teammates pick me up. That’s our energy, that’s our life, is one another.”
The fourth-quarter offensive outburst notwithstanding, it was the Raiders’ standard brand of interruptive defense which won the day.
The interior of Fisher’s defense held a block party, and the partygoers were Chloe Knox, Elisabeth Gianelos, Hannah Brennaman, Natalie Villaflor and Paige, each of whom swatted away a Chancellor shot. Knox knocked aside five, while Gianelos blocked four.
“We wanted to make sure we had multiple layers [of defense],” said Fisher, who arranged his defensive strategy to key on Chancellor’s senior stars Jayla Harris and Sydney Jackson. “We were able to cycle people out there so it was always someone as fresh as could be to guard them.”
Defensive specialist Tayler Tibbits threw herself around the court as usual, taking both charges and fouls.
“We knew they had two superstars, so we knew we had to play man-to-man,” said the senior Tibbits. “We had to shut them down and force the other players to score.”
Leading the County offense with 16 points was Villaflor, who turned in the night’s highlight in the fourth when she stole the ball at mid-court, drove the lane versus one defender, spun 360 degrees around her and laid it in for a crowd-electrifying two points.
Brennaman and Madison Szoka connected on 3-pointers, while Paige drilled a pair from outside the arc.
Paige, Gianelos and the freshman Villaflor are All-Conference 21 first-teamers for Fisher, the conference’s Coach of the Year.
Fisher noted his rare privilege of rotating 10 Raiders through his in-game system. No Raider averages more than 20 minutes or 10 shot attempts per game, he said.
The County coach alluded to University of Kentucky men’s coach John Calipari, quoting, “We don’t have reserves, we have reinforcements.”
The regional semifinal victory puts the Raiders girls’ basketball team into the state tournament for the fifth consecutive campaign, and sixth out of the past seven. County last won a state crown in 2009.
They will go for the region championship at William Fleming in Roanoke when (or if!) the weather ever permits.
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
By Jason S Rufner