Give the Broad Run girls' basketball team credit for simply stepping on the court against Stone Bridge two weeks after its most humiliating loss of the season and still thinking it had a chance to knock off the high-flying Bulldogs.
Give the Spartans even more credit for devising and carrying out a perfect game plan to topple Stone Bridge, 49-42, on Thursday in a AA Dulles District semifinal. The victory clinched a spot in this week's Region II tournament for Broad Run, which will be on the road for Tuesday's quarterfinal round.
Park View had clinched a regional berth by winning the regular-season championship, but it eked out a 42-39 victory over rapidly improving Loudoun County in Thursday's first semifinal. Park View and Broad Run played in the championship game last night, which ended too late to be included in this edition, but both teams had already made plans for first round games Tuesday night.
Park View (22-0) and Stone Bridge (19-4) had played so far above the district's other five teams all season that it seemed a formality both would meet in last night's district championship game with eyes toward this week's Region II tournament. Not only had neither team lost to any of the other five district teams, but none of those teams had played the Patriots or the Bulldogs to within 10 points.
Even though Broad Run (18-5) had lost to only three teams this season -- Park View (twice), Stone Bridge (twice) and Liberty -- the Spartans had yet to knock off an elite team. On Oct. 29, Broad Run lost to the Bulldogs, 40-20, going scoreless for more than two quarters.
"Everyone was putting us on a second level," Broad Run Coach Mike O'Hara said, "and I told the girls that we'd stay there until we beat Park View or Stone Bridge. . . . The girls did it from start to finish, executing the game plan to a T."
Broad Run slowed the tempo on offense, lulling Stone Bridge into a relaxed defense. Stone Bridge fans occasionally chanted, "boring, boring," as Broad Run ran its offense.
Then the Spartans would attack, creating easy shots from the baseline or in the low post.
"Our main goal was to frustrate them," said Broad Run sophomore guard Liz Frank, who scored a game-high 20 points. "We wanted to make them come out after us, and when they did that, we'd blow right by them."
The Spartans also boxed out and rebounded masterfully, keeping the taller Bulldogs from many second chances.
Five-foot-3 junior guard Jamie Powell, who sacrificed at least seven inches to four Bulldogs, was not fazed and was the most effective Spartan on the boards.
"This has been a game that I've been dreaming to win all season," Powell said. "The adrenaline must have just made me get up a little higher. I've been working on my boxing out because early in the season I wasn't getting any rebounds."
Broad Run never trailed, scored on 12 of 18 first-half possessions and played terrific defense by denying Stone Bridge's active low post players many touches. The Spartans forced the Bulldogs to take jump shots, many of which went awry. In the last 10 minutes, Stone Bridge made two field goals, both three-pointers by junior forward Heather Phillips.
"We didn't look past it," Stone Bridge Coach Mike Benson said. "We just got beat."
Park View nearly suffered a similar collapse against Loudoun County. With Park View leading, 26-21, to start the fourth quarter, the Raiders scored on their first four possessions to tie the game, 31-31, on a Jackie Peirce three-pointer. The Raiders forced a turnover on Park View's next possession but turned it back over when they had a chance to take the lead.
Loudoun County made the same mistake after Peirce hit a three-pointer with 3 minutes 31 seconds to play to tie it, 34-34. The Raiders had six turnovers in the last five minutes, while Park View made all six of its free throws to secure victory.
Loudoun County has progressed nicely from a 72-36 loss to Park View on Sept. 12. Six weeks later, the Raiders trailed by three at halftime, before losing, 48-29.
In the previous game, "we looked shocked when it was a single-digit game in the fourth quarter," said Loudoun County Coach Kevin Reed, whose entire roster returns next season.
"This time, we thought we were going to win this one. When we played them the last time, we saw in Park View's eyes that they were beatable, and that was the first time I saw that all season."