A smile engulfed Jovon Miller’s face as he stepped to the free throw line in the closing minutes of Friday’s boys’ basketball game against Potomac Falls, but on the inside, the Loudoun Valley senior forward probably wanted to scream.
Surely, Miller thought, the countless hours he spent working on his shot would yield better than Friday’s 4-for-10 showing at the line.
Despite the missed free throws, Miller made Potomac Falls pay with his hustle on both ends of the floor. He finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Vikings’ 62-46 win in Purcellville.
“Jovon’s worked hard on his shot; it just hasn’t shown yet. But the potential is there,” Vikings Coach Chad Dawson said. “He just kept telling me, ‘Coach, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.’ ”
Similar words of reassurance likely came from Vikings players and coaches at the game’s outset, as Potomac Falls scored the first seven points.
But the Vikings (5-0, 3-0 AA Dulles District) rallied behind a 7-0 run of their own with Josh Grimard scoring seven of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter.
“We’re still waiting for our offense to catch up to our defense sometimes, so I think the guys were a little shellshocked when we went down 7-0,” Dawson said. “But we never got rattled and came back aggressive.”
Keeping with the contest’s back-and-forth style, the Panthers (4-2, 3-1) showed their own resolve. Freshman Michael Janowski (team-high 16 points) scored eight straight points to help the Panthers retake the lead, 22-21, midway through the second quarter.
“It became a game of runs, so at halftime we talked about coming out strong in those first few minutes and getting after it,” Miller said. “We wanted to keep it up-tempo, be aggressive and get those 50-50 balls.”
Dalton Smolens sparked the second-half charge with a three-pointer, one of seven the Vikings made on the night.
Meantime, the Vikings’ extended zone defense forced the bigger Panthers out of the lane and onto the perimeter, where they seldom found open looks.
A six-minute period spanning the third and fourth quarters saw the Panthers score two field goals and the Vikings reel off 17 points, turning a one-point lead into an insurmountable 52-38 advantage.
Afterward, as the Loudoun Valley players mingled with fans, Grimard joked with Miller that if he didn’t start making his free throws, he wouldn’t pass him the ball.
But as the two shared a laugh, Grimard shot a glance at the scoreboard.
“Hey, as long as we got the win, that’s all that matters,” Grimard said. “I know he’s working, so when he does start making them, it’s just going to be that much better.”