Early in the fourth quarter of Park View's 68-61 victory over Tabb in a Virginia AA girls' basketball quarterfinal Saturday, the Patriots found themselves in quite an unfamiliar situation. They were losing.
Park View breezed through the regular season and the AA Dulles District tournament, winning 23 consecutive games by an average of 22.2 points. The Patriots had little experience in "crunch time," because there wasn't any in most of their contests.
Trailing Saturday night, Park View (26-1) wasn't rattled. Down by six points in the final quarter, the Patriots went on a 15-4 run for a 61-56 lead. The Tigers (21-6) scored five to tie the game, but Park View shut them out the rest of the way and added seven points to advance to the semifinals.
The Patriots will face nemesis Lee-Staunton (28-1) on Friday afternoon at Salem Civic Center.
"We haven't found ourselves in that situation an extraordinary amount of times this year," Park View Coach Larry Simms said of the fourth-quarter deficit. "It was sort of eerie that [the players] responded the way they did. It's probably due to the fact that they're mature and they're experienced. When they fall behind a little bit, they don't panic."
Park View faced a similar situation in its Region II quarterfinal against Harrisonburg. The Patriots were down by 10 early in the third quarter and by six at the start of the fourth quarter but tied the game with 2 minutes 52 seconds left on a runner by Sarah Mattusch. Including that bucket, the Patriots outscored the Blue Streaks, 13-3, in the last three minutes.
"Most of us play on the same AAU team, and we play the teams from Robert E. Lee and Harrisonburg all the time," said junior point guard Jennifer Eppard. "So we're used to the pressure."
The Patriots' balance also helps to them navigate tight spots. Although some teams have just one or two go-to players, Park View has several who will take -- and make -- a big shot.
In victories over Harrisonburg and Western Albemarle, in a region semifinal, senior Monika Hols scored six points. In Saturday's state quarterfinal victory, she had a game-high 22 points.
"We're not the type of team that relies on one player," Mattusch said. "We have so much talent throughout our team. If you take one of us out, we know the person that comes in can fill those shoes."
Hols, Mattusch, Eppard, Dulles District player of the year Monica Butts and Monique Walker have led the Patriots in scoring many times this season. Against Tabb last Saturday, Mattusch had 17 points, Walker 15 and Butts 8 behind Hols's 22.
"That type of scoring is hard to overcome," Simms said. "It's a great situation to be in. On any given night, someone can do it."
Park View has another shot at Lee-Staunton, which defeated the Patriots, 42-37, in the Region II final on Nov. 23. Lee also eliminated Park View last season, 56-40 in the region semifinals.
In the region final 12 days ago, the Patriots took a 10-point lead early before cold shooting and several colds took their toll. Mattusch, Eppard and Walker were under the weather that night.
"It wasn't that we were tired," Eppard said. "We were sick."
The Patriots' quick start in the region final has shown them that they can play with, and beat, Lee.
"We know we're better than them," Walker said. "We saw how we went up on them by 11 in the first quarter, and that gives us confidence."
Simms said the Patriots "beat them pretty much for three quarters. We have nothing to change. We're going to try to do the same things."