Briar Woods Coach Mike Benson was ready to go with his standard play to break a press.
Leading by three with less than two minutes remaining in the game, it was a given Potomac Falls would play the Falcons with full-court pressure.
But guards Connor Gaines and Spencer Hatcher had a different idea. Instead of running that play, they wanted to run a different sideline out-of-bounds play to get Hatcher the ball on a defender he could beat with speed.
Benson placed his faith in his on-court leaders, and it paid off. Hatcher received the ball and took off down the court, going coast to coast for a layup to help the Falcons seal a 61-54 win over the Panthers in Sterling.
“We saw he had a mismatch and wanted to get the ball to him,” Gaines said.
That one play essentially put the game away. Potomac Falls (8-2, 0-1 Conference 14) was unable to answer, and Hatcher (19 points) scored another basket on Briar Woods’ next possession.
The Falcons led the Panthers 31-24 at halftime, but the lead quickly vanished as Potomac Falls opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run.
Briar Woods responded by playing a variety of zone defenses, which seemed to disrupt Potomac Falls offensively.
“Coach switched us in and out of zones based on what he saw,” Hatcher said. “When they would call a timeout, we’d get in something different they wouldn’t expect.”
The Panthers had a tough night from the field and hurt themselves even more by shooting 8 for 18 from the free throw line.
Panthers junior forward Wanya Allen scored a team-high 18 points, and his basket with 1 minute 58 seconds remaining in the game put him over the 1,000-point mark for his three year career.
He posed for a photograph during the ensuing timeout to recognize the achievement.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Falcons students who made the drive rushed the court to celebrate the team’s first win over Potomac Falls in two years and only its third ever.
“It was the biggest game of our lives,” Hatcher said.