Fierce rivals Loudoun County and Freedom resume battle for Dulles District supremacy
Friday, January 21, 2011; 11:01 PM
Five years ago, the Loudoun County girls' basketball team dealt Freedom a tough-to-swallow 75-5 defeat. It could have been just another drubbing in a season full of lopsided losses, as the Eagles went 1-21 in the inaugural season for the new school in South Riding.
But the sting of such a heavy-handed loss to the top team in the AA Dulles District at the time - coupled with a 90-11 blowout to the Raiders the previous month - ignited a fire under first-year coach Jason Eldredge and his young team and established the foundation for what has become one of the fiercest girls' basketball rivalries in the state.
On Monday, the Eagles and Raiders meet again, and as has become routine, first place in the district will be on the line.
"When we started our program, County was where we wanted to be," said Eldredge, now head boys' coach at West Springfield. "We worked to get to that point, and once we got up there with them, both teams have had to work hard to stay on top. It's a constant battle."
Five years later, the Eagles (11-5) and Raiders (11-4 heading into Saturday's game at Park View) have combined for three state championships, three region titles and each of the past five district regular season and tournament titles. Both have sent numerous players to college basketball programs. Together, the programs have firmly affixed the spotlight of Virginia AA girls' basketball on Loudoun.
And although the principal characters who built the rivalry in the past four years have moved on, the fire continues to burn.
So what should those in attendance Monday night in Leesburg expect to witness?
"Expect a brawl," said Freedom senior forward Dionna Scott, who became the program's all-time leading scorer Friday night. "Expect hard fouls; expect a fast pace; expect turnovers. It's going to be a death match until the clock hits all zeros."
Scott, a four-year varsity player, has had her high school career bookmarked by matchups with Loudoun County. Along with senior teammate Kim Koditek and Raiders senior guard Brittany Batts, Scott has taken the mantle from past players and coaches who helped construct the rivalry. The burden this season has been heavy for all three.
Gone are Eldredge, All-Met Kelsey Buchanan (Delaware) and Jessica Escorza (Wofford), as well as 2009 All-Met Meixandra Porter (Colorado State), who led the Eagles to consecutive state championships. As the lone senior on the Raiders, Batts has stepped up following the graduation of Kendra Holmes (Lincoln Memorial) and Alissa Kain (Naval Academy Prep School), in addition to the departure of former coach Kevin Reed, now head coach at Sherando.
"There's been so much talent between the two schools," Buchanan said. "It's always the biggest game on the schedule because you have to beat them to prove you're as good as you say you are."
Both teams have struggled at times this season, and through Friday, both had already equaled their loss totals from last season.