By Michael Pittinger
LoCoSports Staff Writer
Leesburg (February 18, 2017) – Crosstown rivals met on the hardwood on February 16 to decide the Conference 21B girls basketball champion between Loudoun County High School and Heritage High School. The Lady Raiders relied on their defense to run past the Lady Pride at home, 56-18.
“We did a nice job defensively,” Loudoun County head coach Derek Fischer said. “We challenged as much as we could and contested as much as we could. The key was probably that we didn’t give them lots of second and third opportunities; we kept them to one shot most of the time.”
“Every basketball team has that night where shots they normally hit don’t go” Fischer said. “Unfortunately, for Heritage, that was their night tonight.”
The second quarter saw the Lady Raiders defense ramp up, which led to multiple Lady Pride turnovers and some questionable shot selection. The defense for Loudoun County gave them confidence and momentum on the offensive side of the ball giving them a 22-9 halftime lead.
“Everyone just gets energy off of each other,” Loudoun County junior guard Julia Ng said. “I think that it helps a lot to have Emily [Miller] and Natalie [Villaflor] in the front defensively because they put a lot of pressure on the guards, so it allows the rest of us to get steals and basically try to make their offense go faster.”
The Lady Raiders came out of halftime firing on all cylinders on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
“Emily told us we have to pick it up and play our game at our speed,” Ng said. “If we play fast then we make the other team play fast, which makes us better.”
By speeding up the Heritage offense, Loudoun County figured out how to slow down the Lady Pride’s leading scorer in senior guard Lana Zjajo, holding her to just nine points for the game.
“We basically had to shut Lana [Zjajo] down because she got on fire and she was hitting threes,” Ng said. “We put Anhai [Allen] – who is one of our best defensive players – on her and then we all basically sat in a box and then held them in and grabbed rebounds.”
Heritage’s offense just was never able to sustain any momentum thanks to the Lady Raiders’ persistent defense.
“I think we as a team have to grow up. We lack experience in games like this,” Heritage head coach Reggie Barnes said. “We have to realize that when are shots are not falling, we just can’t let our composure go. We’re young; this is a new situation for us. It’s a process, and it’s just the next step in our maturation process as a team. When are shots aren’t falling we just have to be more patient on offense.”
The Lady Pride were back in action on February 18 when they fell to William Fleming High School in Roanoke in the first round of the VHSL 4A West region tournament.
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders will be back in action February 20 when they host the winner of a first round match up between Conference 22 runner-up Liberty High School and Conference 23 runner-up Jefferson Forest High School.
“Last year we had to drive like five hours. Then we had to get off the bus and everyone was hungry and tired from sitting on the bus. Then we had to go in and play inside this huge gym. Carroll County’s whole town was there,” Ng said. “They had such a home court advantage, so I think this year we’ll get to have a home court advantage because we had fans tonight. We usually never have a Riot but we had fans tonight. I think they’re seeing our success and they’re really wanting to come together as a school to support us as well.”
|Lady Raider Totals||56||30||9||11||3||10-for-16|
|Lady Pride Totals||18||18||1||7||4||0-for-4|