When Herndon Coach Gary Hall entered his team into the Gonzaga D.C. Classic and its three-round tournament filled with tough opponents, he did so with an eye toward March. By his estimation, this year’s Hornets are the deepest he’s coached during his 20 seasons at the Herndon helm, and if they were to contend for the state title as some expect them to, the No. 19 Hornets needed to test their mettle.

Following a competitive losses to eventual tournament champ Mount St. Joseph and No. 14 Coolidge, the Hornets gritted out a 68-67 overtime win against a talented John Carroll team.

“We have a team that’s not going to lack confidence or get down on themselves if we don’t win games,” Hall said of his 4-2 squad. We know that we’re going to be a team that’s going to be there at the end of the season. We believe we’ll have that opportunity. So you want to play as many quality teams as you can because you don’t want to be in a close game in March and call timeout and you see deer-in-the-headlights looks from your players.”

Sunday’s contest brought Herndon’s first crunch-time experience. Up three points and at the foul line with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Hornets missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing John Carroll to tie the game on a tough three-pointer. Herndon drew a foul on the ensuing possession with one second remaining but again missed both free throws, sending the game into overtime.

Behind several defensive stops and strong play from Dorian Johnson (30 points), the Hornets held on for the win. Herndon also received contributions from forwards Delontae Wingfield and Kent Auslander, who Hall believes is in store for a breakout senior season.

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

Herndon faces another tough stretch this week when it travels to West Springfield on Tuesday and then hosts the Brandon Kamga-led South Lakes Seahawks in a rivalry game on Friday. But Hall welcomes these challenges as the Hornets continue to build toward their ultimate goal.

“Last year, we needed big games from Will Ferguson and Dorian to be competitive against the strong teams,” Hall said. “We lost a big scorer with Will graduating but this year’s team is different in that we’re much more balanced and deep. Games like the ones this past weekend are all about developing those strengths and getting preparation for what we hope to face later this year.”