Shortly after his boys' basketball team lost to Maury in the Virginia AAA quarterfinals, Herndon Coach Gary Hall reflected on the Hornets' first state tournament appearance. Despite the disappointing 54-49 loss at Churchland High in Portsmouth, Hall quickly decided that the experience had been worthwhile.
"It's kind of like getting your heart broken by a girl; I'd much rather be in love and get hurt than never find love at all," Hall joked. "I'd rather be playing than paying six bucks or seven bucks to watch someone else play. I'll take this every year."
That sentiment was shared by players and coaches with the Chantilly and Lake Braddock girls' teams, which also bowed out in the quarterfinal round.
Each of the three losing teams made historic achievements this season, tempering the pain of their early elimination, and each team started at least two non-seniors who can look forward to another chance for playoff success.
Herndon (24-4) came closest to a victory, twice trailing by two points in the final minute. The Hornets ended the season without a district or regional title, but they made an impressive tournament debut, going back-and-forth with a taller Maury team that had the vocal support of an enthusiastic local crowd.
"[Are we] satisfied, no, but a little pleased maybe," allowed senior guard Ricky Lucas.
The Hornets relied heavily on junior Brad Farrell, who scored 12 points, and freshman Scott Reynolds, who hit three difficult long-range jump shots in the last two minutes to keep the game close.
The Chantilly girls fell in the quarterfinal round for the second straight year, this time suffering a 68-52 loss to Indian River, also at Churchland. But the Chargers (22-6), who started a sophomore and two juniors, tied the school record for wins set last season. They did so after beginning the year with three consecutive road losses. They reeled off wins in 22 of their next 23 games.
"I didn't think we'd make it this far, but I'm glad we did," said junior Kate Argy, who had 16 points against Indian River. "I think tonight we played one of the best basketball games I've ever seen my team play."
The Chargers navigated a treacherous postseason; in three of their five playoff wins, they trailed by at least 10 points at halftime before mounting late rallies.
"High school students, they're not going to do a project a week before it's due; they're going to do it the night before it's due, and that's how we are," said senior Caitlyn Gorski, who led Chantilly with 17 points in the quarterfinal loss. "It's definitely nice leaving with a winning record and two district championship under our belt. It's just nice to leave like that."
The Lake Braddock girls were a surprise entry into the state tournament. The Bruins' record hovered around .500 for much of the season, and they finished third in the Patriot District. But Lake Braddock relied on a controlled offense and a strong starting five to reach the Northern Region final with wins over Herndon, Lee and Robinson. The Bruins then claimed the region crown with a two-point victory over Chantilly.
Facing Hampton in the quarterfinals, Lake Braddock trailed by six points before the Crabbers went on a 20-4 third-quarter run. But with a starting lineup featuring two juniors and three sophomores -- including All-Northern Region selection Abby Robertson -- the Bruins already are thinking of another playoff run.
"My teammates and I will always have the memory of winning the regionals," said Quigley, who averaged nearly 15 points per game in the regional tournament. "It was a good time together. There's no doubt we want to return next season."
Panthers Take VIS Title
The Paul VI Catholic girls' team entered the Virginia Independent Schools Tournament fresh off a loss in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament. Strangely, the team also entered the season-ending VIS tournament with momentum.
The Panthers stayed close to top-ranked Bishop McNamara until the final minute of their WCAC semifinal, eventually losing 53-43 on Feb. 23. Paul VI was the only team to stay within 19 points of McNamara since late January, and the only team to hold the Mustangs under 60 points since mid-December.
The Panthers continued their strong late season push in the VIS tournament, winning each of their three games by at least 12 points and capturing the state championship with a 62-50 win over rival O'Connell on March 2. It was the Panthers' seventh VIS title in eight seasons.
"We were playing with a lot of confidence, and our team really was playing unselfishly," first-year coach Scott Allen said. "You can't ask for a better closure to a season than to win a state championship."
Senior Debbie Bruen, who will play for Mary Washington next year, scored 72 points in three tournament games and surpassed 1,000 career points in the semifinals, earning the tournament MVP award. Allison Opfer (UNC-Asheville) and sophomore Kendra King also were named to the all-tournament team.