Before each game, Woodbridge Coach Will Robinson writes on a blackboard a list of challenges for his team. He always caps the list with "play hard and have fun."
Last night the Vikings' relentless defensive pressure--they forced 16 Osbourn turnovers and limited the host Eagles to just two fourth-quarter points--translated to a 63-42 victory, Osbourn's first home loss this season.
"Team defense has been winning games for us all year and we hope it is going to continue to," said Robinson, whose No. 10 Vikings improved to 13-2 overall and 6-0 in the Cardinal District. "You're going to struggle on offense sometimes, but there is no reason not to play hard."
And what about the fun part?
"Oh, yeah, it's fun," said senior guard Maurice Watkins, who tallied 15 points and six rebounds. "We don't want the game to be boring or else we won't want to come out again and do it."
Osbourn (9-5, 2-5) entered last night's game perhaps the most improved team in the Cardinal District--the Eagles were 5-17 overall last season--but it has yet to defeat the Cardinal District's upper-echelon teams this season. Before last night's rematch with the Vikings, Osbourn had suffered narrow losses to Woodbridge (five points), Potomac (four points) and Gar-Field (seven points).
Osbourn appeared ready to break that string, entering the fourth quarter trailing just 46-40 after withstanding a number of Woodbridge runs. But Woodbridge's nonstop defensive pressure took its toll on Osbourn, both physically and mentally. The Vikings seemed able to bring an endless supply of fresh players off the bench to challenge the ball--five players tallied at least one steal--and by the time Osbourn scored its first basket of the fourth quarter, with 3 minutes 30 second remaining, the Vikings had opened a 54-42 lead.
Woodbridge junior guard Shane Staples opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from the right corner to make it a 49-40 Vikings lead at the 7:45 mark. Moments later, Osbourn senior forward Joe Lane--who is averaging double figures in scoring and rebounding this season--picked up his fourth foul and was forced to watch from the bench as Woodbridge extended its lead over the next few minutes.
"It limits a team's ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter if they have to run all night long challenging the pressure we can throw at you," Robinson said. "I don't think they shot the ball too well in the second half."
Eagles Coach Mike Dufrene blamed a lack of mental toughness as much as physical fatigue.
"We kind of look for other people to step up. We need people to lead on the floor, and tonight we didn't have it," said Dufrene, who added that not practicing all week was not an excuse. "Neither did Woodbridge [practice]. I think that is what separates Osbourn and Woodbridge. They can handle that and we can't."
Senior guard John Horton led Osbourn with a game-high 17 points and helped Osbourn rally in the first half from two double-digit Woodbridge leads.