Potomac (Va.) school officials gave first-year Coach Tiffany Jenkins the game ball after the No. 13 Panthers’ 66-51 home win over No. 17 Stonewall Jackson on Thursday night, a Virginia AAA Northwest Region semifinal victory that yielded the school’s first state tournament berth since 2005.
Jenkins, a 2004 graduate of the school, never reached states as a Potomac player. Several minutes after the game, she had determined just where she wanted to put the memento — back on the rack.
“It’s one of our better balls,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “We need this.”
The ball could be back in circulation at 7 p.m. Saturday night when Potomac (24-2) hosts William Fleming, a 68-63 winner over visiting Forest Park on Thursday, in the region championship. Both Potomac and Fleming will play in the state tournament regardless of the outcome Saturday.
The Panthers’ last state berth was in 2005, during the freshman year of future University of Maryland standout Lynetta Kizer.
Neither Potomac nor Stonewall, Prince William County teams that did not lose inside the county during the regular season, led by more than four points until, with the score tied at 38, the Panthers went on a 14-0 spurt that bridged the third and fourth periods.
During that time, the Raiders committed five turnovers and Potomac senior guard Te’Shya Heslip exploited Stonewall’s man-to-man defense.
“We caught on to their man,” said Heslip, who scored 15 of her team-high 19 points in the second half. “I knew I could take my man off the dribble and it would open up other options. So we took advantage of it.”
Stonewall outrebounded Potomac, 47-27, but committed 25 turnovers, eight more than the Panthers. Junior guard Danielle Burns led the Raiders with 12 points. Senior guard Ryan Jordan and sophomore forward Nicole Floyd each had 11 rebounds.
Stonewall, the defending state runner-up, finished 22-4 under first-year Coach Diana Martinez, a Woodbridge graduate who played against Jenkins in high school.
“We just couldn’t take care of the ball, which created their transition game,” Martinez said. “That’s the biggest thing that we stressed was not allowing them to get into transition and get easy baskets. Unfortunately, when we turned the ball over up top, it would give them leak-outs.”
The Osbourn boys’ basketball team, which last season reached the Virginia AAA tournament for the first time in school history, will make a return trip after a 65-47 region semifinal home win Thursday over North Stafford, which was vying for its first state berth.
The Eagles (23-2), whose top seven scorers are seniors, advance to the region final to face No. 14 Gar-Field (25-1), a 56-48 semifinal winner Thursday night at Patrick Henry-Roanoke. The championship game is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Gar-Field. Both teams have secured state tournament berths. Osbourn and Gar-Field were scheduled to play during the regular season but the dates fell through.
“It’s a big feather in these guys’ caps,” Gar-Field Coach Andy Gray said. “They faced some adverse conditions and did a great job handling them.”
“The first quarter we didn’t pressure the ball the way we wanted to and allowed North Stafford to run their offensive sets and they did a real good job of getting the ball to the right people,” Osbourn Coach Mike Dufrene said.
“The second quarter we went more to pressure zone instead of man and we forced them into quicker shots on offense, which plays right into our hands.”
Lane not only led the team in scoring, he helped limit Wolverines senior guard T.J. Jones, who was averaging 20 points per game, to eight. North Stafford finished 23-4.
“It’s hard to be a scorer and the best defender for 32 minutes, and Jay really accepted the challenge,” Dufrene said. “I told Jay I thought the game would come down to him [vs. Jones]. I thought we had an advantage at every other position and thought if Jay could outplay Jones he would be the difference maker.”