Loudoun County 36, Potomac Falls 34

At halftime of the Loudoun County girls' basketball team's 36-34 home victory against Potomac Falls on Thursday night, a diminutive 11-year-old girl joined a group of about 25 high school boys and a handful of fathers for a half-court shot contest.

The lone female participant was about half the size, at best, of the other contestants. But if she were intimidated, it didn't show. When she had her turn, the girl took a running start from beyond half court and, from about 40 feet away, launched the ball toward the hoop.

As the ball splashed through the net and sent the crowd into hysterics, the family resemblance was suddenly obvious. This was Loudoun County freshman Amy Sarver's little sister, Kerry.

At first glance, 5-foot-6 Amy Sarver looks as out of place on a varsity basketball team as her sister did in the half-court shot contest. But the elder Sarver's play, like her sister's shot, belies that notion.

Thursday night in the Raiders' crucial AA Dulles District matchup, 14-year-old Sarver scored five points, scrapped for 10 rebounds and made three steals and three assists to key the victory. Sarver, who took over as Loudoun County's point guard midway through the season, would have tallied more assists had her teammates been able to convert several spectacular passes.

"Sometimes," said Loudoun County assistant coach Patsy Egli, who stood in for Raiders Coach Kevin Reed, "you forget she's a freshman."

Never more so than in the key stretch of Thursday's second half. Potomac Falls (10-9, 3-6) had gone on a 9-2 run to take a 26-24 lead -- its first since it led 1-0 -- with 2 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But then Sarver reentered the game after a timeout.

First, Sarver made a steal, led a fast break and fed sophomore Jaclyn Peirce for a layup to tie the game at 26. After a Potomac Falls basket, Sarver found Peirce again, this time for a baseline jumper. Sarver gave the Raiders the lead back with a free throw late in the third quarter and then extended it with a 17-foot jump shot early in the fourth.

"Amy's been a great addition to the team," said junior center Allison Hahn, who had a game-high 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end. "She's a great ballhandler, and she's really helped the team in that area."

A late Panthers rally allowed them a chance to tie with 2.9 seconds remaining, but time ran out as both teams scrambled to rebound a missed free throw.

With their victory, the Raiders (11-7, 4-4) remained in fourth place in the Dulles District, increased their lead over Potomac Falls to a game and a half and avenged a 42-29 loss in early September to the Panthers.

"We're definitely playing a lot better now than we were in the beginning of the year," Sarver said.

Junior Jackie Balla had seven points, five rebounds and four steals to lead Potomac Falls.