Loudoun County High School sophomore Katie Baldwin had been working on this one particular move whenever she found time at basketball practice. She finally got to use it in a game Tuesday night, toward the end of the first half of the Raiders' 52-28 victory over visiting Park View.
With 45 seconds left in the first half, Baldwin drove to the basket on a fast break. Without breaking stride, she faked a pass to her left, which froze the Park View defender, and then blew past for a finger-roll layup. That move brought the crowd to its feet and showed just how much the 5-foot-9 forward has improved since last season.
"We've told Katie that she needs to become more athletic and to use her athletic skills," Loudoun County Coach Bob Pingley said. "She has the ability to make athletic shots, mainly because she can jump so well.
Baldwin scored a game-high 15 points in Tuesday's nondistrict game on an array of different shots. She made easy layups, thanks to good passes from junior point guard Tara Kidwell (four assists). She nailed a 12-foot jump shot that she banked in from the left side, saying after the game she meant to do just that. She hit another jump shot just inside the three-point arc.
"I'm much more confident than last year because I have more experience," said Baldwin, who started and averaged 8.2 points as a freshman.
Baldwin scored a game-high 20 points in the Raiders' season-opening win Sept. 2 against Broad Run. She said she knew she would have to step up her game this season to make up for the team-high 14.3 points per game put up by Bridget Faux, who graduated.
"Last year, I worked with Bridget, and she helped me out and built up my confidence," Baldwin said. "This summer, I really worked on my shot with Pingley, and that helped improve my range."
Park View (1-1) handled the Raiders' pressure defense in the first quarter, scoring six points off layups, and trailed, 7-6, at the end of the quarter. But Loudoun County (2-0) forced 10 Patriot turnovers in the first six minutes of the second quarter to build a 23-6 lead.
"Loudoun County thrives off the other team's inability to handle pressure," Park View Coach Larry Simms said. "When we took our time and made our passes, we got layups. But with young kids, sometimes they make a turnover and instead of saying, 'I'm not going to do that again,' things start to snowball. We made three or four turnovers in a row and panicked. They saw the panic in our eyes and went for the jugular."
Loudoun County junior guard Stacy James had eight of the team's 16 steals and scored eight points. Senior teammate Marie Bolton had 12 points and six steals.
But Baldwin is the key to the Raiders' success, Simms said.
"There's a lot of focus on their three guards [Kidwell, James and Bolton], but she is very talented, and she's improved her perimeter shooting," he said. "She can also hurt you inside with her smart moves. I told our girls that Katie Baldwin is the best offense threat that [Loudoun County] has. She earns her points; she works hard."
Note: Junior Kathleen Vanderslice led Park View with six points.
Park View (1-1)--Ernst 2 0-0 5, C. Doughty 1 0-0 2, McDermott 1 0-0 2, Cook 1 1-2 3, Vanderslice 3 0-0 6, M. Doughty 2 0-4 4, Powers 1 2-4 4, Nelson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 3-10 28.
Loudoun County (2-0)--Shannon 1 2-2 4, Kidwell 2 0-0 4, James 4 0-0 8, Bolton 6 0-0 12, Baldwin 6 3-4 15, Grimes 2 0-0 4, Kelly 2 1-2 5. Totals: 23 6-8 52.
Halftime: Loudoun County, 29-12.
Three-point goals: Park View 1 (Ernst); Loudoun County 0.