For Handley's Chad Moore, the biggest shot of the night was one he missed.
With Handley clinging to a one-point lead and 1.8 seconds remaining in the Judges' Region II quarterfinal game against Potomac Falls, Moore intentionally missed the second of two free throws. By the time the Panthers rebounded, all they could do was throw up a full-court prayer that fell short, giving Handley a 52-51 victory in Sterling.
"Chad was upset," Handley Coach Tommy Dixon said. "He wanted to make it but you don't want to give them a chance to set something up."
The win moves Handley (23-3), the No. 2 seed from the Northwest District, within one victory of clinching its first state tournament berth since the 1999-2000 season; the team moved on to the semifinals tonight at James Madison University. The Judges also avenged a 63-61 loss earlier this season to Potomac Falls.
"The guys were determined to turn it around this time," Dixon said.
Potomac Falls, the No. 1 seed from the Dulles District, ends its season at 18-8.
"I'm not a big believer in moral victories, but there is no shame in losing to the top-ranked team in the state," Potomac Falls Coach Jeff Hawes said. "I'm leaving here with my head held high."
The Panthers trailed 45-38 with three minutes remaining after a Moore layin and then 49-43 after J.J. Dorsey swished a 10-foot jumper with 1 minute 10 seconds remaining. Potomac Falls cut that lead to three on the next possession with a three-point play from Azhar Ahmed.
The Panthers were forced to foul, and Handley made just three of its next eight free throw opportunities.
With 12 seconds left, the Panthers' Ben Biber (15 points) zipped a half-court pass to Alex Hogue, who was all alone on the right wing. His three-pointer brought Potomac Falls within one point.
The Judges lobbed the inbounds pass to Moore, who was just over the half-court line when he was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. Moore missed the first shot, which led to Dixon calling a timeout to instruct him to miss the second.
"He told me to keep my head up" after missing the first shot, Moore said. "I actually almost made the second one that I tried to miss."
Potomac Falls 51
Spoilers: The loss for Potomac Falls was its only home loss this season; it finished 12-1.
Up Next: Handley plays the winner of Orange County-Waynesboro at 8:45 p.m. tonight at James Madison University.