A six-game winning streak to start the season came to a thunderous halt for the Loudoun Valley High School boys basketball team in the semifinals of the Loudoun Times-Mirror Holiday Basketball Classic as the Vikings fell to Armstrong, 66-52, on Tuesday night.
Armstrong, a Richmond school, displayed superior athletic ability and pressed Loudoun Valley into rushed passes and shots. No Vikings player reached double figures in scoring, and the game was sloppy throughout. Loudoun Valley, normally a well-disciplined, fundamentally sound team, committed 21 turnovers.
"Our shot selection, inexperience and [lack of] patience showed tonight," Vikings Coach Scott Douglas said. "We would get one pass into our offense and then a shot would go up; they would rebound it and score right away. Nobody got hot for us. There was no perimeter game, no inside game. When that happens, you're not going to win."
The Vikings stuck close to Armstrong (2-6) early in the first quarter as several Wildcats played out of control. But Armstrong scored 11 straight points late in the first quarter to take a commanding lead. The Wildcats maintained a double-digit lead from late in the second quarter and led by 25 points.
Douglas thinks his players may have gained a false sense of confidence from their early success. Several of their victories were close games against lesser opponents.
"Like any team that's 6-0, you go on to the court thinking the game is yours," Douglas said. "We didn't try to win it."
Raiders Win First
Loudoun County boys basketball coach Chick Bushrod has had his patience tested this season in nearly every game. It always seems to him that his Raiders, a young, scrappy team, haven't mastered the mental and physical stamina to put together a complete game.
But that was until Loudoun County clamped down on defense and pulled away in the final minutes for its first victory of the season, a 65-59 consolation-bracket victory over Broad Run.
"We just haven't been playing the fourth quarter," Bushrod said. "We're 1-7 right now, but we can easily be 6-2 if we had shown up in the fourth quarter of all our games."
Down 48-47 early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders took the lead for good on the strength of an 8-2 run sparked by their defense. They forced five turnovers in a five-minute span and flustered Broad Run's half-court set. Freshman forward Jeffrey Paynter scored six of his nine points in the quarter.
Bushrod also credited his bench--in particular, seniors Todd Washington and Jonathan Lincoln--for giving his team some important minutes early in the game, which allowed the starters to be fresh for crunch time. Washington scored seven first-half points, helping Loudoun County to a one-point halftime lead. Lincoln scored the last three baskets of the third quarter to tie the game at 46. Both players are returning from injuries, which kept them from practicing thus far.
"They ignited us a little bit," Bushrod said of Washington and Lincoln.
Spartans Fit In Well
Broad Run lost its first two games in the tournament, but that does not diminish the Spartans' early season success. After going 0-22 in the Group AAA Liberty District, Broad Run was reclassified to the AA Northwestern District this season and won three of its first four games.
"It's been all about dropping down a level to where we're supposed to be at," said Broad Run junior guard John Costello, who scored a career-high 29 points in the loss to Loudoun County. "We weren't fitting in [in Group AAA] last year."
Costello also says the attitude is much improved at Spartans practices and games. As last season wore on, losing took a toll on the team, and players lost their enthusiasm.
"There's a will to win, and the guys are trying to make something happen this year," Costello said.
CAPTION: Travis Kidd, Loudoun Valley have their six-game winning streak snapped in 66-52 loss to Armstrong of Richmond, which forced 21 turnovers in Tuesday's semifinal.