The demeanor of the Loudoun Valley boys’ basketball team early in Friday night’s Virginia Conference 28 title game in Purcellville didn’t betray the evening’s stakes: Though a conference title and home-court advantage depended on the outcome, Vikings players exchanged on-court messages with smiles and thumbs ups, rather than frantic shouts or vehement cross-court waves.
“A lot of kids stepped up tonight,” Vikings Coach Chad Dawson said. “I think being loose is probably why. They approached the game very well.”
They never had a reason to tense up, opening up a double-digit lead against William Monroe before halftime and finishing with a 65-50 win to clinch the conference title.
Valley (19-4) cruised despite the Dragons’ concerted defensive effort on William and Mary commit Paul Rowley “from the moment he left the locker room,” as Dawson put it. William Monroe held the 22-points-per-game scorer to seven.
With Rowley shoved, chased, and double-covered out of the offensive attack, senior Coy Boyer led the Vikings’ charge on both ends of the court. Boyer turned in 19 points, including 3 of 5 three-pointers, and chipped in nine rebounds and four blocks.
“My man Coy Boyer had a great defensive game,” Rowley said. “What he did on the defensive end, we all caught up on his level.”
Boyer and guard Michael Irving (11 points) led the Vikings’ scoring attack, which shot more than 50 percent from the field and from three (7 of 13).
“I feel like [William Monroe] had a good scouting report, and they keyed in on me, and my teammates all stepped up,” Rowley said. “The attention they gave me left them more room to work, and they played fantastically.”
Valley also bore down defensively, allowing William Monroe (20-6) just 23 points at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Vikings held a 26-point lead. Thanks to 14 points off turnovers and a strong defensive rebounding effort, the Vikings never trailed, and never had a reason to shed their smiles.
“We all have our own demeanor we bring,” Rowley said. “I think the short story is no matter what face we have on, we are ready to play, ready to strap in and work hard.”
As welcoming as the rims in the Loudoun Valley high school gym were to the shots of the Vikings’ boys team Friday, they seemed to hold a grudge against the Viking girls, who fell to Central-Woodstock, 45-32, in the Conference 28 title game.
All year, Valley (15-8) relied on defense, shutting down opponents while finding enough offense of its own to thrive in low-scoring games. But Friday night, the Vikings couldn’t find the offense to back the defense.
“We couldn’t buy a bucket,” Vikings Coach Kenyamo McFarlane said. “It’s like there was a lid on us.”
Early on, the stingy Vikings defense held Central (14-7) down, and Valley trailed by only two at halftime.
“I never get on them for shooting — sometimes shots dont fall,” McFarlane said. “We shot 25 percent and and we were only down two at halftime...I told them to relax, but I think when the shots didn’t fall they started playing tense, and that hurt the defense.”
As fouls mounted and Central hit free throws the Vikings did not, the deficit neared double-digits in the third before hitting them in the fourth. Valley forced key turnovers, but found attempts to rally stymied by rims that seemed determined not to let Viking shots through.
Rachel Bowyer led the way with 9 for the Vikings, who still move on to the Virginia 3A playoffs next week.