When it was all over, and the Loudoun County High School girls basketball team had recorded a 63-31 victory over rival Loudoun Valley, Katie Baldwin and her Raiders teammates were in shock.
Tuesday's game was a matchup between two of the best teams in the Northwestern District: Host Loudoun County entered the game with a 10-0 overall record and a 6-0 district mark and was beating teams with its high-pressure defense, while Loudoun Valley had used its height advantage (three starters are 5 feet 11 or taller) and balance to post a 10-1 overall and 5-0 district record.
So a 32-point victory was not what the Loudoun County players expected.
"We just had a really good night," said Baldwin, who scored a game-high 18 points and had two of the Raiders' 25 steals. "We played good defense. I don't remember having to play half-court defense; all I remember doing is pressing. I don't think they had many chances to set up their offense."
Loudoun County junior point guard Tara Kidwell scored 16 points and had five steals, senior guard Marie Bolton added 11 points and seven steals, and junior guard Stacy James had 11 points and nine steals.
Loudoun Valley got off to a good start and was able to break the Raiders' press and work the ball inside to 5-foot-11 junior Valerie Murphy (seven points and nine rebounds), 5-11 junior Holly Everhart (four points), and 6-0 sophomore Kristen Carlson (10 points and six rebounds). The Vikings had an 8-2 lead with 3 minutes 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Loudoun County increased its pressure, and two steals by Kidwell in the final 15 seconds of the quarter resulted in three points (a Kim Grimes layup and a free throw by James) and gave the Raiders a spark.
Bolton made a three-pointer from the top of the key to open the second quarter and give Loudoun County a 12-11 lead. The Raiders never looked back, outscoring Loudoun Valley 22-2 in the quarter. The Vikings attempted only six shots in that period.
"We got a little more organized," Loudoun County Coach Bob Pingley said. "We got a couple of quick steals, and I think they got rattled. It was one of those games when things just started to snowball."
The Raiders extended their 18-point halftime lead by making the first six shots they attempted in the third quarter. When Baldwin converted a layup with 4:50 left in the quarter, Loudoun County led, 41-16.
"The pressure just got to us," Loudoun Valley Coach Carmel Keilty said. "We knew what to expect, but you don't know what happens sometimes with kids when the intensity level picks up. They do their best, and that's all you can ask. . . . Our kids never gave up, and I'm proud of that. We just need to regroup."
Loudoun Valley (10-2, 5-1)--Livesay 1 0-2 2, Ryburn 1 0-0 3, McLaughlin 1 0-0 3, Everhart 2 0-0 4, Scandiffio 1 0-0 2, Carlson 4 1-3 10, V. Murphy 3 1-3 7. Totals: 13 2-8 31.
Loudoun County (11-0, 7-0)--Shannon 0 0-1 0, Kidwell 7 2-4 16, James 4 3-4 11, Bolton 5 0-0 11, Baldwin 8 2-2 18, Forsythe 1 1-3 3, Grimes 1 0-0 2, Kelly 1 0-0 2. Totals: 27 8-13 63.
Halftime: Loudoun County, 31-13.
Three-point goals: Loudoun Valley 3 (Ryburn 1, McLaughlin 1, Carlson 1); Loudoun County 1 (Bolton 1).
CAPTION: Raiders' Tara Kidwell tries to retain the ball as teammate Marie Bolton, right, Loudoun Valley's Valerie Murphy fall in behind her.
CAPTION: Stacy James runs fast break for Loudoun County, which collected 25 steals. Raiders broke open the game by outscoring Vikings 22-2 in second quarter. The Northwestern District rivals went into Tuesday's matchup with similar records.