By Curtis Atkinson
Purcellville (February 17, 2017) — The saying goes that familiarity breeds contempt. There was no love lost between the Loudoun Valley High School Vikings and Heritage High School Pride as the Conference 21B rivals met up for the fourth time this season – and third in the past three weeks – to determine the conference tournament champion on February 16 in Purcellville.
The Vikings sought their fifth conference tournament title in the past six years while the Pride hoped to avenge a loss last week in the regular season tiebreaker to become “Kings of the Jungle.”
Buoyed by a 10-0 run to end the first quarter, Valley cruised to a 69-55 win and yet another conference tournament title. Despite an early back and forth affair in the previous three matchups, Valley’s lead never dipped below six following the first quarter in this one.
Loudoun Valley head coach Chad Dawson knew a good start would be a key to the Vikings’ success.
“The first half of the last two games, we played their game,” Dawson said. “Tonight in the first quarter, we tried to make them play our game, which is obviously to our advantage with the players we have that can put the ball in the hole.”
That included Vikings’ superstar junior Jordan Miller, who scored 31 points – just two shy of his career high. He started strong scoring 8 in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers that helped propel the Vikes early on.
“I just knew my team needed a spark,” Miller said. “I knew if I stepped up, that would get the rest of the team ready to roll.”
And roll they did.
Valley had two other players in double-figures: senior Duron Norris – who scored 11, often driving to the hoop – and junior Jalen Williams – who dropped 10, hitting timely outside shots.
It was a disjointed affair as the physical brand of basketball both teams play slowed the pace. The teams combined to shoot 44 free throws on the evening. The Vikings broke a recent cold shooting slump by finishing 75 percent at the line. Miller led the way going 13-for-17.
“It lets us control the game,” Miller said. “I knew I needed to knock down those free throws to keep control.
The ability to convert those free chances wasn’t lost on coach Dawson.
“Jordan has an uncanny ability to step up in big games. He always does that,” Dawson said. “Sometimes they’re bringing two and three guys at him and he still finds ways to score.”
Heritage really couldn’t find a rhythm against Valley’s pressure defense, struggling to get clean looks at the rim all night. Pride senior center Garrett Ganley scored 13 point to the lead the Heritage effort, while senior point guard Zach Garrett added 11.
That effort still wasn’t quite good enough for Dawson. When asked what they’ll focus on moving forward he responded, “we’re going to work on defense, get back after it tomorrow,” with a smile.
Both teams now advance to the VHSL 4A West region tournament starting February 18. Conference 21B runner-up Heritage will travel to Conference 23 champion George Washington High School in Danville for a region quarterfinal on Monday, February 20. On the same night, Conference 21B champion Loudoun Valley plays host to the winner of the first round match up between Conference 21A runner up Sherando High School and Conference 23 No. 2 Charlottesville High School in Purcellville.