By Matt Brooks
Sunday, February 20, 2011; T01
As they jogged into the locker room following Casey Cummings's buzzer-beating jumper to cap a dominant first half Friday at Woodgrove, Loudoun County knew its 19-point lead over Freedom was unlikely to hold up. Not in the Dulles District championship game, the fourth straight meeting between the two teams in the league final. Not against the two-time defending state champion Eagles. And not against a team they had faced 16 times over that four-year stretch to build one of the fiercest girls' basketball rivalries in Northern Virginia.
Aided by the Raiders' sloppy ball-handling and suddenly stagnant offense, Freedom made its run in the third quarter and carried it into the fourth, whittling the deficit to five points with just less than four minutes remaining. But the Raiders put the ball in the hands of their only player who'd been on the floor for all four district finals, senior guard Brittany Batts, who restored some semblance of calm to help Loudoun County hold on for a 54-49 victory and its third title in four years.
"We tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," first-year Loudoun County Coach Derek Fisher said. "But we knew they weren't going to quit; Freedom is too good. They're not going to stop playing, and it would be unusual for there to be any type of wide margin between these two teams."
Batts and junior guards Alex Lapple (10 points) and Erica Linneman (12) led a fluid offensive attack that capitalized on eight first-half Freedom turnovers to build a 32-13 lead at the break. Cummings (game-high 14 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks), patrolled the inside as the Raiders' zone defense kept Freedom senior forward Dionna Scott in check early.
Scott came alive after the intermission, scoring 16 of her game-high 19 and creating openings for Freedom's perimeter to players to help chip away at the lead. But the early hole and 15 turnovers proved too much to overcome.
Coming into the game, both teams had locked up their Region II Division 4 playoff seedings - the Raiders (21-4) will be the second seed and Freedom (18-7) will be the third on a side of the bracket that also includes league foes Potomac Falls and Briar Woods, meaning that for the second consecutive year, only one can advance to the state tournament.Potomac Falls boys roll
Led by 18 points from junior Greg Graves, white-hot shooting from their point guard duo and a committed defensive effort, the Panthers (24-1) showed why they are considered a favorite to return to Richmond to defend their AA Division 4 state title.
Potomac Falls raced to a 24-10 lead in the first quarter, thanks to four combined three-pointers from senior point guard duo Zack Curran and Pete Simoneau. The two combined for 24 points as nine Panthers saw at least five minutes of floor time and eight made the scorebook.
"We're even deeper this year; we're a much better team," Simoneau said. "Most teams haven't been through this like we experienced last year. We're almost all seniors, and we don't want to end our careers with a loss."
For seventh-seeded Woodgrove (9-15), a stunning week that included upsets at second-seeded Broad Run and third seed Briar Woods ended on the first-year program's home floor, despite a game-high 23 points from rangy 6-5 junior Brad Gilson.
Still, the Wolverines' run brought them from a probably No. 8 seed to the third seed in the Region II Division 3 field. As a result of Broad Run's first-round loss, Potomac Falls will host its rivals as the top seed in the Division 4 field Tuesday.