Sterling, Va. — In a season that’s been filled with doubt and occasional strife, the Potomac Falls boys basketball team finds themself in a familiar spot at first place in the Potomac District and regular season champions after a, 71-59, win over the Rock Ridge Phoenix on February 18 in Sterling.
It was senior night, and the Potomac Falls senior stars showed out. Guard Landon Hawes put on a show, finishing with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals. His largest impact came at the free throw line, where he shot 8-of-12, making free throws to keep the Phoenix at bay.
“I just wanted to go out with a twenty ball. I think I got 20 exactly,” Landon Hawes said. “It was a great way to end senior night. I didn’t really start off too well, missed a couple layups. But I just kept battling. I made some free throws. It was just all about getting that win tonight.”
His fellow senior and running mate Jalen Coker was efficient as ever, shooting over 60% from the field as he dropped 22 points and 13 rebounds, yet another double-double.
“I’m going to miss these guys a lot,” Coker said. “It was a special night for me tonight.”
The game looked as if it would be a total blowout at the start, as at the end of one quarter, it was 15-5. Six minutes later? It was 24-7, the Panthers running and gunning their way to another victory.
The Phoenix started to climb back, however, cutting the deficit to just eight at one point, but they were never able to climb all the way back.
“We got a little sloppy with the ball from about the middle of the second quarter,” Potomac Falls head coach Jeff Hawes said. “We picked it back up a little bit in the third.”
The victory was revenge for Potomac Falls, who had lost 63-45 to Rock Ridge on January 21.
“We’re a whole lot better basketball team than we were then,” Coach Hawes said.
For Potomac Falls – a group that had struggled with scoring and creating past Hawes and Coker throughout the year – this win showed progress.
It was a great way to end senior night. It was just all about getting that win tonight.
—Potomac Falls senior Landon Hawes
The night was an emotional one for all parties involved, but especially for the eldest Hawes.
“I was almost numb all day and then it just kind of all hit me. I knew it was probably going to happen that way,” Coach Hawes said. “I’m close with all my groups, but something about this one, you know, being my second son and those kids spending a lot of nights at my house.”
The win combined with the Freedom loss to Stone Bridge meant that Potomac Falls secured the regular season district title, something few thought would happen after the Rock Ridge loss.
“I said for eight months, I thought 9-3 would do it,” Coach Hawes said. “It was a strange way it all went down, but at the end of the day, we knew it was possible tonight so we were excited about that.”
Now, the Panthers will have a rest before the first round of the VHSL Region 5C tournament, which they will host the entire way.
“I’m gonna enjoy the heck out of this,” Coach Hawes said.
The relaxation won’t last too long, as on February 25, Potomac Falls will host Briar Woods in a first round tournament game.
In the words of Jalen Coker, “It’s playoff time right now.”