AA Division 4 Girls

Loudoun County Raiders Mature Into State Champions

Loudoun County's Jenna Strange, center, strains to hold onto the ball as Aven Thomas and Morgan Eye try to take it.
Loudoun County's Jenna Strange, center, strains to hold onto the ball as Aven Thomas and Morgan Eye try to take it. (By Tracy A Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 15, 2009

RICHMOND, March 14 -- It was just the second game of Loudoun County's season when the Raiders allowed an eight-point halftime lead to disappear in a loss to Turner Ashby.

But in the months since that game, Loudoun County had matured from a team with a delicate mixture of experience and youth into a confident squad intent on making history.

On Saturday night, the Raiders yet again showed just how much they had grown since December, rolling over Turner Ashby, 63-47, to capture the Virginia AA Division 4 championship.

After the game, four of the five returning players from last season sat in the postgame news conference holding hands, their eyes red and filled with tears.

"At the beginning of the season we had five freshmen come in . . . and we knew we had to start interacting with each other, getting to know each other and that came through the season," said Alissa Kain, who finished with a game-high 23 points. "And our team has really come together this year. It's a great feeling."

The win was the third consecutive convincing victory in the state playoffs for the Raiders, who outscored opponents, 230-143, in the tournament -- an average margin of victory of 29 points.

And there was perhaps no better indicator of just how far this team has come than the play of Kain, who continued her outstanding postseason play.

After the game, Turner Ashby Coach Rob Lovell pointed to Kain as the major difference.

"I thought she was terrific tonight and we just couldn't seem to get her guarded," Lovell said. "She hurt us all over the floor whether it was shooting, driving, offensive rebounds."

While Loudoun County has been known for its high-scoring offense, it was the Raiders' defense that was most impressive early on.

In the face of Loudoun County pressure, Turner Ashby struggled to get a good look at the basket and was held to just one field goal through the first 7 minutes 40 seconds of the game.

The Raiders forced eight first-quarter turnovers to set up fast-break baskets, and by the end of the first period had built a 15-4 lead. In three games, Loudoun County outscored opponents, 59-16, in the first quarter.

Turner Ashby cut the advantage to nine late in the second quarter, but the Raiders closed out the half on a 9-0 run to open the lead back up to 18.

In the second half, Loudoun County only continued to attack, pushing the tempo of the game and opening up a 26-point lead at the end of three quarters to cruise to victory.

But for a team that has grown so close, winning was almost bittersweet.

"I think the best part of it all is winning," said Kerry Sarver, the team's lone senior. "And the saddest part is that I'm not going to have practice on Monday."

Loudoun County 63, Turner Ashby 47 Double Up: Loudoun County was the second team from its county to win a state championship yesterday after rival Freedom did so earlier in the day. In the postgame news conference, Coach Kevin Reed congratulated Freedom for winning and declared that the Dulles District officially housed the state's best AA girls' basketball.

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