After three months and about 1,100 games, Northern Virginia is ready for its high school boys and girls basketball tournament.
Already, four girls teams and two boys teams have assured themselves of berths in next week's Northern Region Tournament at Robinson High School in Fairfax by finishing first in their respective athletic districts. The tournament begins March 1.
The remaining 10 teams filling out the regional tournament -- six boys and four girls -- will not be determined until district tournament play concludes this week.
Winners of the Northern Region Tournament will advance to state competitions in March.
The area's 27 high schools are divided into four districts -- Northern, Great Falls, Potomac and Gunston. Only two teams -- the Mount Vernon girls of the Gunston district and the Marshall girls of the Great Falls district -- clinched first place before the end of regular season play last Friday.
For the four other winners -- the Wakefield girls from the Potomac district, the Woodson girls and boys from the Northern district and the Fort Hunt boys from the Gunston district -- the regular season went down to the final game.
In the Great Falls and Potomac districts, regular season play for boys ended in a two-way tie for first place. That means only the teams advancing to the finals of their district tournaments this Friday will go to regional competition next week.
Here is a look at the six teams who have sewn up a trip to the Northern Region Tournament:
* Mount Vernon High School (girls): The Majors' Chris Moreland, who is Northern Virginia's leading girls scorer for the second year in a row with a 25-point-a-game average, has rarely been stopped this season. Behind the 6-foot-1 junior, Mount Vernon averages 72 points a game while allowing opponents 56.
After three seasons of outstanding play, Moreland "expects two or three people on her," said her coach, Gary Young. "But we still go to her in the fourth quarter, and she still produces."
Mount Vernon likes a fast-paced game, which suits the speed of junior guards Wanda Ellis and Deryl Bruffey.
* Marshall High School (girls): Going into last week, the Marshall girls were tied for first place with Yorktown and South Lakes. By Thursday night, the Statesmen had beaten both rivals to land a spot in the regional tournament for the 11th time in 12 years.
Seven players on this year's squad played on last yeaar's regional tournament team.
Marshall coach Terry Conroy said the team's strength is "a balanced pack" and credits the team's success with the fact that she "sets up presure situations during practice" so her team will know how to cope with them during games.
Maria Lewis, a senior point guard who averages nine assists and nearly 10 points a game, is Marshall's floor leader. She is being recruited by Brown, Bucknell, Franklin and Marshall, Emory and Henry and Roanoke.
* Wakefield High School (girls): Perhaps the most underrated of all the girls teams going into regionals, the Warriors are a solid team that has won 19 of 22 regular season games.
Wakefield entered last Friday's game against Chantilly tied with that team for first place in the Potomac district. The winner would advance to regionals.
Wakefield grabbed a five-point half-time lead and held off repeated comeback attempts to win 50-48.
"It was a mentally tough game," Wakefield coach Fran Kibler said, noting Chantilly had won the meeting earlier in the season by nine points.
Wakefield, which made the regional tournament last year, is strong defensively and looks to Kas Allen (21 points a game) and Sharon Gaskins (14 points a game) for leadership.
* Woodson High School (girls): The Cavaliers have the area's best record (19-1) and the most incentive -- last year's team, after coasting to the regional championship, was favored to win the state title but was defeated in the semifinal round of the state tournament.
"One of the goals we made before the season started was to win the state championship this year," Woodson coach Cheryl Thompson said. "The girls are hungry for that title."
Woodson won several games by embarrassingly large margins, including a 90-28 drubbing of Oakton Friday night to clench first place.
Two starters, Lorraine Rimson and Helen Baroody, already have signed with major college programs. Rimson, a six-foot power forward who averages 17 points and 12 rebounds a game, will attend Florida State University. Baroody, the smooth guard point, chose Auburn.
* Woodson HIgh School (boys): Coach Red Jenkins has built a team capable of playing -- and winning -- any game, regardless of tempo. The 18-2 Cavaliers recently avenged an early season loss to powerful T. C. Williams by beating the Titans 90-80 in a run-and-gun game, supposedly Williams' specialty.
Last week, when Lake Braddock slowed the pace, Woodson still won by 19 points.
Woodson averages 83 points a game, tops in the Northern district. The Cavaliers are led by Pat Witting, who averages 23 points a game, highly recruited point guard Tommy Amaker (17 points a game) and Mark Unterkofler (13 points a game).
* Fort Hunt High School (boys): The Federals have responded well to pressure. They won the prestigious Bishop Denis J. O'Connell Christmas tournament by defeating Archbishop Molloy of New York, the 14th ranked team in the nation.
Last Friday, when a win over Lee was needed to clench a berth in the regionals for the first time in 15 years, Fort Hunt won 71-54.
"We're not going to be afraid of anybody in the regional tournament," promised first-year coach Tom Casey.
Fort Hunt's patient offense is run by guards Mike Day and Rob Funderburk. Three big men, 6-foot-3 Carlos Martin, 6-foot-4 Mike Meade and 6-foot-5 Steve Landon, average around 10 points and eight rebounds each a game.