Girls' Notebook

Mount Vernon Is on a Major Run

Jalinda Venable, shown during her freshman season at Paul VI, is averaging 13.7 points for No. 15 Mount Vernon, which has won 11 straight.
Jalinda Venable, shown during her freshman season at Paul VI, is averaging 13.7 points for No. 15 Mount Vernon, which has won 11 straight. (By Tracy A. Woodward)
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By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mount Vernon girls' basketball coach Terry Henderson used to coach the Majors' junior varsity boys' team. On occasion, a former player will stop by to watch one of his girls' practices and later accuse him of growing soft.

"You don't run them as much," a boys' player will say.

"Their heads aren't as hard as yours," the coach will joke. "They usually get the message quicker."

Whatever the No. 15 Majors are doing, it's working. The team has reeled off 11 consecutive victories after a season-opening loss to South County and is one of the more noteworthy stories in Northern Virginia as teams gear up for their district schedules.

Last month, Mount Vernon beat Virginia AAA Northern Region contender T.C. Williams and ended Edison's 71-game winning streak in the National District. The Majors then won the Lady Greyhound Classic in Portsmouth by beating four Eastern Region teams, including two ranked in the Virginian-Pilot top 10.

Four Majors have scored 20 or more points in a game this season, led by junior forward Tracy King (20.3 ppg) and junior point guard Jalinda Venable (13.7), a Paul VI transfer.

"I didn't sugarcoat anything," said Henderson, the program's fourth coach in as many years. "I let them know the expectations early. My main thing is I wanted to make sure I kept the same concepts [as when coaching the boys]. The main thing is they're willing to work hard on defense and that's allowing us to get easy baskets from time to time."

No. 7 Oakton, No. 14 Paul VI and No. 16 West Springfield are other ranked Virginia teams that won holiday tournaments.

The Virginia AAA Patriot District, with West Springfield, defending region champion Lee, T.C. Williams and on-the-rise South County, showed during the holidays why it could be the most hotly contested district race in Northern Virginia.

West Springfield (9-1) won the Pohanka Holiday Classic at Chantilly, knocking off previously unbeaten Mills Godwin, the sixth-ranked team in the Richmond area, 60-47. Spartans senior guard Sam Landers totaled 46 points in three games and was named the tournament most valuable player. Senior guard Pui Sham sank 10 three-pointers.

Lee (7-2) reached the final of the MBOA Holiday Hoops Classic, where it lost to No. 10 Elizabeth Seton. South County (8-2) upset No. 13 Georgetown Visitation in overtime in the IAABO Christmas Tournament. T.C. Williams (5-4), which will play at Lee tonight, won its first two games at a tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., before dropping its final two.

It Gets Tougher for Mountain View

No. 17 Mountain View has won each of its nine games by double figures, beating opponents by an average of 20.3 points. To date, the Wildcats have played a soft schedule, but that will change Friday when they host Riverbend in a matchup of Virginia AAA Commonwealth District front-runners.

Riverbend (10-2) made perhaps its biggest impression this season during a loss -- the Bears fell last month to No. 4 Forest Park, 66-62, but they were the only public school team to play the Bruins closer than nine points. Friday's winner also will have the upper hand toward clinching the district's top region berth, which goes to the regular season champion.

Special correspondent Matthew Stanmyre contributed to this report.

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