Visiting Mount Vernon used a suffocating half-court press to shut down Washington-Lee, 79-54, in a Virginia AAA National District game last night.

The Majors, led by sophomore Ryan Hughes (26 points) and senior Kelvin Coggins (23 points), improved to 4-0 in the district and 9-4 overall. Washington-Lee, which got 19 points from junior Justin Diggs and 11 from his brother, senior Amaziah, fell to 2-1 in the district and 6-6 overall.

"The key was the ball pressure our guards put on their point guard," said Coggins, who added 12 rebounds en route to recording his fourth straight double-double. "Our defense got some big stops."

Mount Vernon's first-year coach, Bryan Hill, said: "We were focused on stopping their guys and limiting them to one shot. We know that if we play good defense, we'll get more possessions and more scoring chances than them."

Mount Vernon's smothering press forced the Generals to hurry shots and commit 10 turnovers in the second quarter, during which they endured a scoreless stretch of more than five minutes. Meanwhile, Hughes and Coggins heated up, combining for 16 points in the quarter as Mount Vernon stretched its lead to 41-24 at halftime.

"We didn't do a good job stopping those guys, letting them run all over the place the way they did," said Washington-Lee Coach Bobby Dobson, referring to Hughes and Coggins. "They are good players, but it was embarrassing to allow them to come in here and do that to us. It was not a good effort from any of our 15 players--or myself."

In recent weeks, Hughes, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who is averaging 20 points per game, and Coggins, a 6-4 point guard averaging 21 points, have become a force.

"We know that we have to score the points for our team to win," Coggins said of the back court. "We're starting to get on the same page. We played together over the summer, and now we're playing the way we're supposed to."

Justin Diggs hit three straight three-pointers late in the third quarter to cut Mount Vernon's lead to 53-42, but that was as close as Washington-Lee would come. Hughes and Coggins were too much.

"If Ryan gets on fire, he can't be stopped," Hill said. "The same could be said for Kelvin. They complement each other well."