By Matt Brooks
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, March 11, 2011; 5:24 PM
Virginia AA Division 4 girls' final
No. 16 Loudoun County (26-4) vs. Liberty (21-5)
Saturday, 7 p.m. at VCU's Siegel Center, Richmond
How they got here: After beating Liberty in the Region II final, Loudoun County blew past Eastern View in the quarterfinals but trailed for the entire second half against Turner Ashby in Wednesday's semifinal before Erica Linnemann's runner with five seconds left gave the Raiders a 41-40 win. The Eagles easily dispatched Grafton in the quarterfinals and then routed Salem 63-34 in the semifinals to set up a rematch for the state title.
What's at stake: A Loudoun County victory would give the Raiders two championships in three years and extend the Dulles District's dominance of Division 4 to three consecutive seasons. The Eagles are making their first state final appearance.
What to watch for: Size versus speed. Liberty boasts four players 5-10 or taller including 6-2 senior Jazmon Gwathmey (JMU) and 6-4 junior Brianne Croushorn and uses its superior size to dominate opponents in the paint and on the boards. Raiders' 6-0 junior Casey Cummings is averaging 15 rebounds per game in the postseason and will need to continue her strong play while avoiding foul trouble to match the Eagles' post presence. But the key for Loudoun County is speed on the perimeter with the junior point guard duo of Linnemann and Alex Lapple and Brittany Batts, the program's all-time leading scorer.
Players to watch: The Raiders held Gwathmey to four points in their last meeting, but Liberty's senior captain put up 20 in against Salem and will be looking for a similar showing in the final. Batts was 3 for 20 from the field against Turner Ashby before fouling out in the final minutes, and after watching her teammates pull out the win immediately thanked them for prolonging her career. She scored 31 in the region final and as County's lone senior, she'll be determined to go out with another title.Virginia AA Division 4 boys' final
No. 12 Potomac Falls (29-1) vs. Hidden Valley (19-7)
Saturday, 9 p.m. at VCU's Siegel Center, Richmond
How they got here: The Panthers coasted to consecutive Dulles District and Region II titles but needed a last-second steal and layup from senior Lukas Mihailovich get past Tabb in the quarterfinals. Wednesday they used a 12-0 start to knock off Christiansburg and advance to a second consecutive final. Hidden Valley avenged a pair of regular season losses by beating previously-undefeated Christiansburg in the Region IV final. The Titans beat William Byrd in the quarterfinals and then slipped past Liberty 62-57 in overtime in the semis.
What's at stake: Potomac Falls is looking to cap two years of dominance at the AA level with its second straight state championship. Hidden Valley is playing in its first final after losing in the semifinals in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
What to watch for: Battle of the bigs. The Panthers frustrated Christiansburg with a zone defense built around 6-7 forwards Greg Graves and Mickey Wagenhoffer, but the Titans have size of their own with five players 6-3 or taller. If Potomac Falls' front court can control the defensive boards, the Panthers will sprint out in transition where they're at their best. And an up-tempo game should favor the defending champions.
Players to watch: Senior guard Carter Wright is averaging 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in two state tournament games for the Titans and will be a focal point for the Potomac Falls defense. Mihailovich is the Panthers' catalyst on offense and poured in 33 points in last year's double-overtime title game thriller. But while his play is critical to his team's success, Graves' presence in the paint is paramount. The lone junior who sees significant minutes on a roster loaded with 10 seniors, Graves is a force on the backboards and alters shots around the basket. If he can patrol the lane on both ends of the floor, the Panthers could be on their way.