BROAD RUN: Broad Run Coach Larry Boomer had hoped that by this point his team would feature a more consistent and diverse scoring attack. So he is improvising his game plan by implementing more full-court pressure, which provided a spark in the Spartans' loss to Potomac Falls, 58-45, last weekend.
"The defense has helped pick up the slack sometimes, giving us some easy baskets," Boomer said. "But if we're playing poorly on one end, I'd rather be playing poorly offensively because the defense can save you."
But the defense can't sustain continuous offensive inconsistencies, which is making it harder for Boomer to wait for that one go-to guy to reveal himself. The Spartans have topped the 50-point mark only five times in 14 games this season.
"The thing is, we don't have a lot of guys who can carry us on their back," Boomer said. "We don't have one player who can score consistently for us. [Senior forward] Kevin Hiatt and [junior guard] John Costello have the potential to do that, but they haven't stepped forward. You would like to know going into each night that one kid is going to be on enough for him to carry you.
"But, except for Park View and Handley, I think each coach is going through the same offensive consistency pains that I'm going through. If the league was stronger up and down, I others teams can win on any given night."
LIBERTY: Don't be misled by the 74 points Liberty's defense has allowed on average the past three games. It's not entirely the fault of the defense but rather poor ballhandling and decision-making by a team without a true point guard. Gerald Lyons and Tevin Venia, shooting guards by nature, have been asked to run the point.
"We're giving teams such easy opportunities to score," Liberty Coach Paul Frye said. "That's why they're scoring so much. Our half-court defense isn't bad. It's just a matter of getting to that half-court set."
Like many of their opponents in the Northwestern District, the Eagles haven't found their main offensive threat for crunch time. While four players are averaging double figures, Frye said, "You want someone to want the ball, and we don't have a player who does."
One thing all the Eagles want, however, is not to play Handley or Park View in the opening round of the district tournament. Because of the parity in the district after the top two teams, it is doubtful that seedings for the tournament will be determined before the final weekend. But Frye is looking at each game from here on as an opportunity to stay out of the final two spots, which likely would face the Judges and Patriots in the first round. The Eagles lost to Handley by 25 and Park View by 36 earlier this season.
"You'll probably wind up playing one or both of them," Frye said. "But we want to dodge them for as long as we can."
LOUDOUN COUNTY: Loudoun County Coach Chick Bushrod thinks his team played its most complete game of the season in last weekend's 72-52 victory over Liberty. Four Raiders reached double figures, satisfying Bushrod's strongest craving: more offensive options. Freshman point guard and senior center Michael Stocks are proving to be nice complements to leading scorer Dave Groy.
"It was a pretty consistent game for us," Bushrod said. "We pressed them from the beginning, and it worked for some easy points for us."
What kept Bushrod from giving further praise was his team's continued poor free-throw shooting. The Raiders are making barely half their shots from the line, and Bushrod doesn't need to be reminded that could have changed the Raiders' sour looks after four losses by fewer than five points.
LOUDOUN VALLEY: If there is one team happy to see exams and a lull in the schedule, it is Loudoun Valley. The flu bug has been nipping at the Vikings for the past month, claiming sophomore forward Travis Kidd and junior forward Greg Carlson as its chief victims. So the slow week gave Vikings Coach Scott Douglas a chance to rest his team.
"Every school deals with it," Douglas said. "The problem is you can't pick a time and place for it. It just jumps up and gets you."
What hasn't been so sudden, much to Douglas's dismay, is the Vikings' offensive production. Douglas has been patient with his young players learning his deliberate offense, allowing them to discover their niche. But things appeared to come to a head Jan. 7 in a 62-51 loss at Loudoun County, in which the Vikings squandered a 13-point, third-quarter lead. Douglas says his players are "thinking too much on the court on how to execute the offense perfectly. They have to play without thinking."
Captain Anthony Long has "not been playing with the confidence a senior should. He's not getting the play that meets his standards." Long isn't the only senior failing to meet expectations. Senior leadership, Douglas said, is any team's defining characteristic. "If we're not careful, this team won't be remembered for its seniors because they're not stepping up."
NOTRE DAME: That collective sigh emanating from Middleburg is coming from the Notre Dame Regional boys basketball team, which is enjoying its longest break of the season and nearly has reached the end of brutal road schedule.
With the postponement of last Thursday's home game versus Riverdale Baptist (Md.) until Feb. 16, the Dragons are in the midst of 12 days between games. When this break ends Friday, the Dragons travel to Blue Ridge, which beat Notre Dame last month in Middleburg, 84-72. With the exception of the St. James Invitational Tournament in relatively nearby Hagerstown, Md., from Feb. 10 to 12, the Dragons won't have to leave home after the Blue Ridge game. That should bode well for a team that has seemed to come together and won seven of 10.
Notre Dame (11-8) has fared well in the three tournaments in which it has participated, reaching the semifinals of the James Glover Memorial Classic to open the season, winning the Chapel Hill High School Tournament over winter break and advancing to the semifinals of the North American Invitational Tournament in Toronto last weekend. In that most recent event, the Dragons lost to Milford (Conn.) Academy, 72-62, which could prove to be a strong preparation for their toughest game left.
Notre Dame Assistant Coach Mike Teasley likened Milford's size and quickness to that of nationally ranked Mt. Zion (N.C.) Academy, which the Dragons host Jan. 31, and lost to, 67-48, in Richmond last month. Milford sported four players taller than 6-foot-7 and rotated very quickly with their perimeter defense.
PARK VIEW: While Handley surprised nearly everyone in the Northwestern District with the relative ease of its 85-68 blowout of Park View on Jan. 11, nobody was taken aback more than Park View Coach Ken Edwards.
"They got our attention, that's for sure," Edwards said. "We were lucky to have a game that Friday to get [the Handley loss] out of our system."
The Patriots went immediately to the opposite end of the standings--winless Warren County--Jan. 14 for relief and won by 39. But on Tuesday, the Patriots get another shot at the Judges, this time in Sterling. Though Edwards says his team won't do much different, he says it will be better prepared for Handley's deep starting unit, which featured five outstanding scorers. Edwards also stressed the importance of not letting his team fall behind so quickly, as it did in the teams' first meeting.
POTOMAC FALLS: It's doubtful there is a happier coach in the Northwestern District than Potomac Falls's Jeff Hawes. After two dreadful seasons of building his program, Hawes has won more games so far this season (9-5) than in his previous two (7-37).
"At this point in the season, we've done everything well," Hawes said. "We've just done it all in different stages. Some nights, we'll play zone well; some, it's our man. Some nights, we shoot well; some, it's our rebounding. I just don't want them to put it all together too early."
Although the Panthers still have one game apiece against district favorites Handley and Park View, as well as possible meetings in the district tournament, they still could sneak into the Region II tournament while going winless against the Judges and Patriots.
"We have an outstanding shot of going to the regionals without beating one of those two, and that's exciting," Hawes said. "But I don't want the guys to get the idea that if we don't make the regionals that this season is a waste because it has been very successful. Even if it ended today, I'd be very pleased."
Although the Panthers have struggled against Park View, they gave unbeaten Handley (10-0)its toughest game yet, losing, 66-54. Not only did Potomac Falls hold Handley to its lowest point total (the Judges have scored at least 75 in the rest of their games), the Panthers hung close for much of the game. They trailed by three at halftime and were down six with three minutes to go. With the progress the Panthers have made in the five weeks since that game, Hawes said he is particularly optimistic that his team finally could put everything together when the Judges visit Potomac Falls on Tuesday night.