After returning in late February from a snow break of more than a week, Prince William area boys' and girls' basketball teams played a flurry of games -- regular season finales, tie-breaking playbacks, district tournaments, region tournaments and, finally, the Virginia AAA state quarterfinals.
Then, there was nothing.
Four area schools finished as Northwestern Region champions or region runners-up, but all four got bounced Saturday night in the first round of the state tournament. The last time Prince William failed to send either a boys' or girls' basketball team to the state semifinals was 1995-96.
A possible caravan to Lynchburg -- there was the chance of a local team playing in all four state semis Friday at Vines Center -- instead hit a dead end.
The Potomac boys lost to George Wythe, the Gar-Field boys lost to Highland Springs, the Forest Park girls lost to Atlee, and the Woodbridge girls lost to Petersburg. All the victors hailed from the Central Region, which has claimed one boys' state titlist in 18 years (Meadowbrook in 1994) and one girls' state titlist in 23 years (Midlothian in 2000).
"It's deflating for [each] school, but I don't think it's deflating for the area," Potomac Coach Kendall Hayes said of the first-round flameout. "It's not like somebody from our school is saying, 'I sure wish Gar-Field and Woodbridge had made it.' We're all pretty self-centered in terms of general population."
The early exits made for an abrupt end to a season that featured an abundance of story lines:
* The Gar-Field boys (18-9), once stalled at 8-7 and with one of the shortest benches in the county, won 10 of their last 12 games, including the Cardinal District and region championships, to reach the state tournament with none of the key players from the 2000-01 state runner-up squad. Guard Chris Vann emerged as one of the most productive boys' players in the area's bountiful junior class. Ten of the top 15 scorers from the Cardinal and Cedar Run districts were 11th-graders.
* The Forest Park girls, a third-year program, soared to a 24-4 record and muscled its way atop the Cardinal District, a notion almost unthinkable when the school opened; at that time, Woodbridge and Gar-Field had combined to post 183-71 and 232-31 records, respectively, the previous 10 seasons. The Bruins will return all their prominent players next season and most reserves.
* The Brentsville boys (17-8) concluded their long Bull Run District stint by winning both the regular season and tournament titles, led by district player of the year Brian Owen, a senior guard. The Tigers, who reached the Region B semifinals, have been assigned to the AA Northwestern District starting next season.
* The Hylton boys (13-7) and girls (15-6) each had fine seasons, but neither won district titles nor district tournaments, so neither qualified for regionals. The girls' team, led by 1,000-point career scorer Jasmine Byrd, a senior guard, forged a three-way tie with Forest Park and Woodbridge, which forced multiple playback games to determine a Cardinal regular season champion. Five of the girls' losses were to Woodbridge (four times) and Forest Park. The boys will return all their players except for senior guard Jerome Quinata (6.9 ppg).
* Although the Potomac boys (21-6) reached the state tournament for the sixth time in nine years, and the Woodbridge girls (23-7) made it for the third time in five years, other schools were earning long-awaited trips to regionals. The Stonewall Jackson boys (12-13) won the Cedar Run tournament title, the program's first district crown since 1970. The Osbourn Park girls (8-14) won the Cedar Run regular season title and reached the regional for the first time since becoming an AAA school in 1985. The Potomac girls (10-14), also in the Cedar Run, won their first district tournament title since 1987.
* Several teams snapped lengthy series losing streaks. The Stonewall boys had lost eight straight to Gar-Field and nine straight to Potomac. The Osbourn Park boys beat Gar-Field and Potomac for the first time since the late 1980s. The Hylton boys notched their first win against Woodbridge after losing their first 23 meetings. The Osbourn girls beat Gar-Field for the first time since becoming an AAA school in 1996-97. The Osbourn Park girls broke an eight-game losing streak in the Hylton series.
* Osbourn transfer Sidney Welch, a senior guard, helped Manassas Park compensate for a variety of departures by averaging 17.6 ppg, more than twice the scoring output of any teammate.
* The Seton girls (24-6) won the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament title for the 17th time in 19 years with a 59-19 victory over Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy. Juniors Mary Grimberg and Lauren Sewell each scored 14 points.
* The Heritage Christian boys (17-0) won the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools state title with a 64-49 victory over Ridgeview. Seniors Mike Solbach and Darell Duckett combined for 42 points. Junior Matt Hastings was named tournament most valuable player.
* The Evangel Christian girls (16-1) also won an ODACS title, knocking off United Christian, 45-28. Sophomore guard Ashleey Stevens and junior center Katie Oakes, the tournament MVP, combined for 31 points.
* The Evangel Christian boys (11-7) got a boost from sixth-grader Kendall Marshall, who gained national recognition by being named the top player in the class of 2009 by an online recruiting service. The 5-foot-2 point guard scored about 13 ppg.