* Park View boys 74,

Loudoun Valley 65

With a rematch against undefeated district leader Handley looming next week, the Park View High School boys basketball team needed to assess its priorities Friday night. Although the Patriots may not have gotten them straight until the fourth quarter of their game at Loudoun Valley, they still showed for the final five minutes why they are a premier team, winning, 74-65, before a spirited crowd in Purcellville.

Now Park View (6-1 Northwestern District, 10-2 overall) can focus all its energies on Tuesday's showdown in Sterling against the Judges (8-0, 11-0). A Judges victory would give them a two-game lead in the Northwestern District and an edge in the season series against the Patriots, whom they beat, 85-68, ON Jan. 11 in Winchester.

The pain of that loss, the Patriots' lone district defeat, lingered enough for them to realize their mortality in the relatively weak district.

"That [Handley] game told us we can lose. And these guys [Loudoun County] are good. They were only one game behind us," said Park View center Jeff Schwalm, who scored a game-high 26 points, one short of his career high. "If we had lost this one, we could kiss the district goodbye."

Loudoun Valley (4-3, 8-5) entered this game struggling, losing four of six after winning six in row to start the season, and Vikings Coach Scott Douglas stressed his disappointment in his players' lack of improvement over the course of the season. His shooters were inconsistent, and the low-post game was nonexistent. On paper, it appeared to be a Park View cakewalk.

But the Vikings withstood Park View's pressure from the outset and refused to get blown out early, as so many of the Patriots' opponents often end up.

"Under the circumstances of exams, the weather and not a lot of practice time, I think we played our best game of the season," Douglas said. "The kids picked up the intensity for this rivalry game. We're starting to feel comfortable with what we're trying to do."

Park View played sluggishly in the first half. If it could not score quickly, or, if the Vikings broke the full-court pressure, Park View seemed unmotivated to create on both ends. Loudoun Valley's sharp shooting, led by sophomore Adam Harper, who scored a team-high 16 points in a reserve role, and Anthony Long's 12 points, further exposed Park View's holes.

The Patriots were also trying to take advantage of their inside strength and their quick wing players by sending only four players to rebound. That plan backfired for much of the night as Loudoun Valley rebounded well.

But Patriots Coach Ken Edwards pulled the plug on that plan in the final quarter, and by no coincidence, that was when Park View took command. After Harper hit his fourth three-pointer of the night--with the 6-7 Schwalm in his face, no less--the game was tied at 52 with seven minutes to play. Two possessions later, Nick Smith, who scored a season-low 11 points, hit a three-pointer to give the Patriots the lead for good.

Despite facing a nine-point deficit with less than four minutes to go, Loudoun Valley refused to go away. Park View's Derek Chew missed the front end of a one-and-one with 46 seconds to go (and the Patriots leading, 68-64), but Loudoun Valley had its last chance slip away when point guard Kevin McKay hurried down court, and--instead of seeking the hot hand of Harper--missed badly on an open three-pointer from the top of the arc. Park View made free throws from there on to seal the victory.

"I thought we shot it too quickly," Douglas said. "And it's just our luck because I've been trying to get him to shoot more. I had hoped he would have penetrated and then kicked it out [to Harper] for a better shot."

Instead, Park View got both its wishes: a victory, and a reminder of how easy it is to get caught looking ahead.

"We needed that going into Handley," Edwards said. "If we blew them out, we would have gone into Handley just like last time--thinking we'd beat them--and get blown out."

Park View (6-1, 10-2)--Brownlee 6 1-4 15, Ramey 2 0-0 4, Schwalm 12 2-4 26, Chew 4 4-5 12, N. Smith 4 1-4 11, Petrie 3 0-0 6. Totals 31 8-17 74.

Loudoun Valley (4-3, 8-5)--Long 3 4-4 12, Culbert 3 0-1 6, Hedrick 2 1-1 5, McKay 2 4-4 9, Kidd 0 0-0 0, Harper 5 2-2 16, Barton 4 0-0 8, Hyatt 3 3-4 9. Totals 22 14-16 65.

Halftime: Park View, 33-31.

Three-point goals: Park View 4 (Brownlee 2, N. Smith 2). Loudoun Valley 7 (Harper 4, Long 2, McKay).

CAPTION: Derrick Chew goes in for layup for Park View, which took control in the game's final five minutes

CAPTION: Vikings' Steve Dellinger (54) tries to defend Nick Smith, who scored season-low 11 points but made a three-pointer that gave the Patriots (10-2, 6-1) the lead for good in the fourth quarter. At left, Vikings' Travis Kidd looks to drive, can't prevent Loudoun Valley from losing for the fifth time in seven games. Vikings (8-5, 4-3) had won six straight to start this season.