As chaos unfolded around him, Zach Coffman’s focus turned from savoring his picture perfect night to simply staying upright. The raucous Heritage crowd stormed the floor and enveloped Coffman as the final seconds ticked off the clock to seal the Pride’s 77-70 win over No. 14 Loudoun Valley on Friday night in Leesburg.
For the first time all season, a AA Dulles District rival got the better of the Vikings, who entered the night alone atop the league standings and one of the few remaining unbeaten area teams. And Coffman was at the center of it all on senior night at Heritage.
“It was kind of an adrenaline rush,” the junior guard said. “Senior night was bumping.”
Coffman scored 32 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to deal the Vikings their first loss. The game was close throughout with neither team leading by more than two points at the end of each of the first three quarters. The Pride and Vikings (18-1, 14-1 AA Dulles) traded leads seven times in the first half alone.
“They beat us on the boards, they beat us in effort, they beat us in 50-50 balls,” Loudoun Valley Coach Chad Dawson said. “They played better than us. They shot well, we didn’t defend them well and they deserved to win.”
Heritage (15-5, 11-5), which gave the Vikings their toughest test of the season in a 61-54 loss in Purcellville in December, took a 52-50 lead with six minutes remaining in the contest and never let go.
A technical foul whistled against Valley led to a Coffman free throw and Paul Conteh’s layup that pushed the Pride’s lead to 57-50.
Conteh played a crucial role in expanded minutes for the Pride. While starting point guard Jesse Case sat out with a back injury, Conteh’s speedy style and aggressive defense proved electric for Heritage.
Coming off the bench, the junior guard had seven points and earned the adulation of the home crowd when he nullified two Viking possessions by taking charges.
“I’m more of a defensive player,” Conteh said. “I just try to let the offense come to me.”
Facing a frontcourt that includes three players standing at least 6-foot-5, Heritage employed a fast-break offense designed to beat Loudoun Valley’s Josh Grimard, Jovon Miller and Paul Rowley down the court.
When Heritage couldn’t outrace the Vikings’ three tallest players, players like Coffman and Mister Lewis (16 points) shot mid-range jumpers and floaters over their heads.
Rowley had 27 points to lead the Vikings, including three three-pointers in the final three minutes. Josh Grimard, although cold from the three-point line, still put up 18 points and ran plenty of interference on the block.
With the loss, Valley’s lead in the district standings over Potomac Falls — a 72-48 winner over Champe — slipped to a single game.