Loudoun Valley’s Emily Thompson proves clutch at the line; Stone Bridge, Tuscarora boys among Conference 14 contenders

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
February 10

Each practice, Coach Kenyamo McFarlane has his Loudoun Valley girls’ basketball team practice pressure situations.

One of those entails simulating end-of-game moments where free throws are needed down the stretch. This drill benefited the Vikings (14-6, 7-4) last Friday night, when they shot 72 percent from the line in a 48-42 win over Purcellville rival Woodgrove.

Sophomore guard Emily Thompson was a standout from the line, hitting all eight of her free throw attempts. It’s an area McFarlane said she’s focused on all season.

“In crunch time, her teammates know to get her the ball to her,” McFarlane said. “She’s been a clutch free throw shooter all year. In one stretch she hit 12 in a row. . . .

“She’s always making sure she’s hitting them all in practice so that it translates into games.”

McFarlane said Woodgrove’s defense limited Thompson’s opportunities from the field, which is why her free throw shooting was needed. Thompson finished the game with 13 points.

For the season, Thompson has made 66 of her 76 attempts, and her 86.8 shooting percentage ranks third in the area.

But it wasn’t just Thompson coming through from the free throw line against the Wolverines. Rachel Bowyer hit six of seven free throws, which contributed to her team-high of 14 points.

“We shoot a lot of free throws,” McFarlane said. “We call it, ‘Money Time.’ When it’s time for them to shoot free throws to seal it or ice it, we step up and make them.”

Loudoun Valley has won six of its last nine games and will conclude its regular season Wednesday against Heritage (8-12, 4-6).

McFarlane said the key will be to stay the course and continue playing as a team with each other with the postseason ahead.

“Everybody plays their role,” McFarlane said. “It can change game to game. And all year long, if you look at our stats, it’s been someone different leading us in scoring, leading us in rebounds, leading us in blocks, leading us in steals. There are no egos on this team. Everybody’s a superstar in their role.”

Bulldogs make their bid

Stone Bridge’s boys’ basketball team is one solid week away from earning a Conference 14 regular-season title.

The Bulldogs (10-9, 5-2) have turned their season around following a five-game losing skid from Dec. 20-Jan. 13 with solid play over the past month. Winners of six of their past seven games, Stone Bridge is a half-game out of first place, with Broad Run (15-3, 6-2) leading in the standings by a half game.

That can change Monday night when the Spartans host the Bulldogs in Ashburn.

The two teams played in the middle of Stone Bridge’s losing streak on Jan. 10, with Broad Run winning 74-62.

One key to the Bulldogs’ turnaround has been guard Julian Albizo. In Stone Bridge’s first 12 games, Albizo averaged 6.5 points per game. In the Bulldogs’ past seven contests, he’s improved that number to 13.4.

But the tough slate doesn’t stop with Broad Run. On Wednesday, the Bulldogs will host Briar Woods (11-7, 3-4) before ending their regular season on Thursday against Potomac Falls (14-5, 3-4).

Huskies pick up the tempo

Tuscarora’s boys made the transition to a high-octane, up-tempo attack that Coach Al Smith described as “hockey on hardwood” early this season.

The approach is panning out at the right time.

With the postseason ahead next week, the Huskies (14-6, 5-3) have won their past four games against Conference 14 contenders Briar Woods, Stone Bridge, Potomac Falls and Broad Run. As it stands, all five teams are in the mix for the regular season championship and a top seed in the playoffs.

On offense, the Huskies’ strategy is to push the ball up the court and find a quick shot, which has led to an 82 points per game average — tops in the area.

Kyle Copeland (15.2 ppg), Jordan Roach (14.3) and Josh Middleton (12.3) are all averaging double figures, with Copeland (35) and Zach Alcorn (31) having made over 30 three-pointers each.

Two games remain on Tuscarora’s regular-season schedule, with Freedom-South Riding on the slate Monday night. The Huskies conclude with a showdown against Briar Woods this Thursday.

Raiders sophomore stepping up

Through her first 17 games this season, Loudoun County forward Elisabeth Gianelos averaged just over four points per game.

Over the Raiders’ past three contests, the sophomore has kicked her production up a notch to help County reel off 10 straight victories. Gianelos netted a season-high 16 points in Thursday’s 39-26 win over Woodgrove, and Saturday she added 10 in a 49-31 victory over Dominion.

“I feel our team is getting stronger and more intellectually connected,” Gianelos said following Loudoun County’s win over Woodgrove. “It’s starting to fit together more. You want to play your best now.”

Loudoun County (17-4, 10-1) will clinch the No. 1 seed for the Conference 21 tournament with a win over Champe (12-8, 4-6).

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