* Potomac 52, Gar-Field 48
The Potomac boys' basketball players say they haven't been quite the same since the Jan. 14 home loss to Osbourn Park. For one thing, they weren't thrilled at being the first Panther team since 1988 to lose to the Yellow Jackets. And for another, no one will let them forget it.
"We go around school and [hear]: 'How'd you lose to OP?' " junior guard Bryan Butler said Friday night after a 52-48 home win over Gar-Field. "We can't even go to the mall without somebody saying, 'How'd you lose to OP?' It's really embarrassing. We don't want to lose to anybody else around."
Butler made sure it didn't happen against Gar-Field. He found a seam and drove for a basket with just under two minutes to play to stretch a two-point lead to four, and then sank two free throws with 41.2 seconds left to provide another four-point cushion after Gar-Field junior Greg Tekampe had made two foul shots.
The Indians (8-7) used just six players, one of them a less than ship-shape Chris Vann, who despite a tender left foot that caused him to miss his previous game poured in 23 points Friday from all around the court, on jumpers long and short and on emphatic drives to the hoop.
It was Vann who almost enabled Gar-Field to pull off the upset. With the Indians trailing by eight late in the third quarter, he buried a three-pointer from the right corner, hit another jumper and then scored on a layin off a Tekampe feed. Senior Demetrius Howard converted inside shortly thereafter to give Gar-Field a lead that lasted all of 19 seconds.
Potomac freshman Eric Hayes then hit a three, senior Germain Williams scored on a layup and junior Jason Flagler took a steal coast-to-coast to run the lead back to 48-42 with 4:02 to play, and the Panthers (13-3), whose bench enjoyed a 15-0 scoring advantage, remained on top for the duration.
"I felt a little slow cutting to the ball," said Vann, who was not on the floor for the final 27.4 seconds after his right calf cramped while he was airborne on a shot attempt. "I should be better in a week or a week-and-a-half."
Vann's stat line was plenty robust -- 10 of 19 from the floor, five rebounds and five steals to pad his area-best 20.3 ppg scoring average and assert his standing in Prince William County's bountiful junior class.
Vann has scored in double figures in every game he has competed in this season, a claim no other area 11th-grader can make.
"You can see the difference in how we played this Friday and last Friday," Gar-Field Coach Andy Gray said, referring to the 55-42 loss to Woodbridge that the team muddled through without Vann. "We need him out there, and tonight he responded, as he has all year. He especially shines in the bigger games against tougher competition. Usually somebody is a shooter or they're a slasher. He's got enough of both to make him very effective.
"As a coach, you love it when your best offensive player is also one of your better defensive players. That tells everyone -- if he's got to play defense, I've got to play defense. He does that without questioning it, or without sacrificing any effort at that end to help reload for the other end."