The hierarchy of leading scorers this season for No. 9 Mount Vernon seemed likely to start with senior guard-forward Kelly Loftus (Hofstra) and then proceed to junior forward Samantha Porter, senior guard Taylor Dunham (Navy) and senior guard-forward Tiffany Webster (Barton), all among the top scorers last year on a 25-2 team.
“That’s definitely been a huge surprise,” Mount Vernon Coach Courtney Coffer said of Shannon, who was a three-point shooter off the bench last season and has 12 three-pointers in four games so far this season, including five in her 26-point effort against No. 19 Oakton.
“We have three seniors who have been with me since their freshman year,” Coffer said. “If they were selfish kids, they’d have a problem with it. But when [Shannon’s] got it going, they’re looking for her. They understand if Chanel has it going it makes their job easier, because who do you game-plan for?”
The Majors already have avenged their two losses from last season, when the only team to beat them was Oakton, including in the Northern Region semifinals. Mount Vernon topped the defending Virginia AAA champions 68-52 on Dec. 4, to emerge as the front-runner for the region title.
Oakton also had knocked the Majors out of the 2009 and 2010 region tournaments.
“It was a game that we had marked on our calendar since they ended our season last year,” Coffer said. “It was good for our kids’ psyches for us to get that win and get over that hurdle.”
Mount Vernon thought it was booked to play in a holiday tournament in Prince George’s County against various out-of-state teams. The event fell through, so now the Majors are scrambling to pick up a game to stay sharp during the holiday break.
The National District schedule is not particularly formidable, but Mount Vernon has nondistrict games scheduled with Norfolk school Maury, which last season started four freshmen en route to the Eastern Region semifinals; Roanoke school William Fleming, a 2011-12 state quarterfinalist; and Central Region school Highland Springs, a state semifinalist a year ago.
Battlefield this season already has ended Winchester school Millbrook’s 84-game winning streak. Can it halt Stonewall Jackson’s run of more than 70 consecutive Virginia AAA Cedar Run District wins when the teams meet Tuesday?
This team has a better shot than any previous Battlefield team. The Bobcats’ lone Cedar Run losses last year were to Stonewall, but the margins of victory shrunk to 23, 18 and 22 points. The previous five were by 53, 37, 45, 57 and 42 points. Only one game in the Bobcats’ 0-20 sour streak in the series has been decided by less than 17 points.
More encouraging math: Early last season Battlefield lost to Millbrook by 41 and to Georgetown Visitation by 34. The Bobcats have beaten those teams this season.
“Until you get that big win, you don’t know that you’re going to go out and get the big win,” said ninth-year Battlefield Coach Eric McCaslin, who founded the program. “I’m surprised at the maturity that they’re starting to show. I knew the talent was there, but it’s having the ability to win that game against teams that have that mentality and tradition and history of winning.”
In addition, Battlefield has handed Virginia AA Division 3 semifinalist Woodgrove (6-1) its only loss and has fallen only to No. 1 Riverdale Baptist and to downstate school Franklin County, a team that played Potomac (Va.) and Elizabeth Seton to two-point losses.
Five of Battlefield’s top eight scorers are freshmen and sophomores who have played extensively together in AAU. They do not feel burdened by the team’s long-standing futility against Stonewall.
“They definitely have the mentality that that’s history,” said McCaslin, whose team has not given up more than 42 points in a win. “That’s not us. Mind-set-wise, they believe they can do it.”
In the seven games, six players have led the team in scoring or tied for the team lead in scoring, led by sophomore guard Misha Jones at 11.9 points per game. Junior guard Brianna Jones scored a team-high 10 points in the win over Georgetown Visitation.
“I found out in the [season opener] there is no one that I have to worry about putting on the floor,” McCaslin said. “They all can play.”