Jason Thomas said that the Herndon boys basketball team didn't come into last night's AAA Concorde District game at No. 6 South Lakes feeling like a disrespected team that needed to make a statement. In fact, Thomas insisted, the Hornets are a team with somewhat low self-esteem.
Those feelings should be allayed after Thomas scored 22 points to lead Herndon to a 75-72 upset of the Seahawks.
"We needed a confidence boost," Thomas said, alluding to recent losses to Oakton and Mount Vernon.
"We weren't sure of what we were capable of doing. So this was a big booster."
That might be putting it mildly. Although the teams went into last night's game with identical records, South Lakes (11-3, 2-1) has dominated district play the past few seasons. The Seahawks' only two losses this season were at a holiday tournament in Florida.
But Herndon (12-2, 2-1) was able to force the tempo and control the boards.
"We're the team that has been dictating the terms of play to other teams," South Lakes Coach Wendell Byrd said. "They were able to put their players into the right position to do things.
"It was their night."
South Lakes, led by Doyle Brown's 11 points, had a 19-16 lead after one quarter. But Herndon put the clamps on Brown in the second quarter, and moved ahead 38-37 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Herndon moved the ball around well and opened up a 52-44 lead with 2 minutes 49 seconds left in the quarter. But South Lakes fought back and rallied to take a 62-61 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Thomas answered with a putback to put Herndon ahead by one. Teammates LeAndre Boone and Mark Lussier each made a free throw to extend the lead to 67-62 with 1:57 to play.
Senior guard Daren Lake's layup with 1:32 to play pulled South Lakes within 67-64. Herndon senior guard Alen Safarian then stole the ball, was fouled and made one free throw to extend the lead to 68-64.
South Lakes pulled within 71-69 with 25 seconds left on a runner by senior guard Michael Miller.
However, Safarian made two free throws to extend the lead to four, Miller missed a three-point attempt and Thomas grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He hit two free throws with six seconds left to clinch the victory.
"It takes nothing but the best you can play to beat South Lakes," Thomas said.
"If you're not on your game, they're going to make you pay. Nothing but excellence when you play them."