Hayfield Coach Carlos Poindexter figured his team would endure a few different challenges this season after moving from the National District to the newly formed Virginia Conference 6. What he and the Hawks didn’t expect was the high frequency of zone defenses they have faced since entering conference play last month.

The different looks are aimed at foiling Hayfield’s efforts to develop its offense from the inside, where juniors Eliet Donley and Dalon Thomas have played effectively, and then out, where top scorer Amir Atkins typically creates his offensive opportunities. But after falling in overtime to Madison in their conference opener, the Hawks have won five straight in convincing fashion, positioning themselves for the top seed in next week’s conference playoffs.

“We’ve been focusing on shooting and zone offense, because every team we have faced in our conference has played zone ninety percent of the time,” Poindexter said. “It was a bit of an adjustment, but we’re getting better each practice and game with our zone offense.”

Poindexter finds himself constantly telling his team to “dump it in, dump it in” when the Hawks set up their offense during games and practices. And as Donley, a transfer from Hawaii, has developed his post moves, resulting in an average of 18.3 points during the last four games, the team has flourished.

Atkins has found more space to make plays, relying less on jump shots and more on cleaner looks created by ball movement and cutting to the rim. That was the case Friday, when the senior guard knocked down three three-pointers and hit all five of his free throw attempts en route to 22 points during a win against a tough South Lakes squad.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

“Playing inside-out has freed everybody up to get easier buckets,” said Atkins, who is averaging 13.6 points. “We’ve also rebounded better and played better defense, and that’s helped us get in transition and get more easy buckets.”

With two road games against No. 9 Clinton Christian and Conference 7 foe Washington-Lee on tap for the final week of the regular season and the playoffs looming, the Hawks hope to improve upon their execution on both ends of the floor.

“We’re trying to think about how guys will defend us in the postseason, so if they do double down, we’ll be ready to knock down open shots and create plays when we need them,” Poindexter said. “We depend a lot on Eliet and Montez (Wilson) for defensive rebounding, but we need all five guys to crash the boards so we can create more opportunities. That’s how we’ve beat teams and hopefully we can stretch this run into the playoffs, when it counts.”