After becoming the first boys’ team from Loudoun County to win a basketball state championship last March with a roster full of juniors, Potomac Falls knew anything short of a repeat Virginia AA Division 4 title would be a disappointment.

The Panthers staved off that possibility by winning a game that nearly matched the double-overtime drama of their first title win a year ago, turning back Hidden Valley, 58-55, on senior guard Pete Simoneau’s three-pointer from the left wing with three seconds left.

“I knew I was going to take that shot coming down the floor,” said Simoneau, one of 10 seniors on the team, many of whom have played together since elementary school. “And once I let go of it, I knew it was going in.”

With a relentless three-quarter court press and zone defense that fueled their transition attack, the Panthers appeared in control for much of the game. Their grip loosened, however, with four minutes left when leading scorer Lukas Mihailovich crashed to the floor, injuring his ankle.

At the time, Potomac Falls (30-1) led, 47-42. They would briefly lose that lead in the final moments before Simoneau’s heroics.

Before his injury, Mihailovich continued his mastery on the Siegel Center court, following up his 33-point performance in last year’s thriller with a game-high 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 3 steals.

“It was a long few minutes,” Mihailovich said about watching the end of regulation from the bench. “But right when I went down, [junior center Greg Graves] came over to me and said, ‘I love you, I got you, and I’m going to pick you up.’ It was tough, but I was confident they were going to bring it home for me and that’s what they did.”

Without their top weapon, the Panthers turned to Graves (12 points, 18 rebounds, 6 blocks) whose aggressiveness in the paint prevented a complete fourth-quarter collapse. But Hidden Valley’s Taylor Walker scored the Titans’ final seven points, including a tying three with 20 seconds left.

After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Panthers settled into their zone, which forced the Titans into a more methodical offense — and multiple turnovers out front.

Hidden Valley (19-8) hung close with gritty play in the paint and perimeter shooting, and took advantage of less efficient offensive play from the Panthers in the second half.

“The fashion we did it in,” Panthers’ Coach Jeff Hawes said. “Double-overtime, miraculous three at the buzzer, it’s gotta be one of the greatest high school basketball stories in the state of Virginia.”

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