Leesburg, Va. — Even sitting at 3-0 on top of the Dulles District, the Tuscarora High School boys basketball team knew they’d have their work cut out for them when they hosted rival Loudoun County High School in the teams’ first matchup of the season.
Over the last three seasons, the Captains have established themselves as the team to beat in the Dulles District, but the Huskies feel they are primed and ready to make a run in 2022-2023.
“They’ve been the standard, and the standard is winning the district and making state appearances,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Newkirk said. “They provide the example of where we’re trying to get to. We like our group and our talent, and we were able to get a little closer to that example tonight.”
Led by senior forward Gavin O’Malley, the Huskies used an explosive third quarter to create some cushion before holding off a fourth quarter run by the Captains to take sole possession of first place in the Dulles District following their 44-37 win on January 3 in Leesburg.
“We’re really excited, because it’s a team win and everyone contributed,” O’Malley said. “We wanted to get it to the bigs to let them go to work. We spaced out a bit to make sure our guards had clear entry points and that was really the difference.”[adrotate banner=”53″]
After a slow start for both teams offensively left them knotted up at 18-18 at the half, Tuscarora turned up the intensity in the third quarter as O’Malley controlled the boards and junior shooting guard Jayden Johnson found his rhythm to give the Huskies a 34-23 lead after three quarters.
“What you saw in the third quarter, that’s our identity,” Newkirk said. “We showed it in the Stone Bridge game, but we weren’t able to close that game out. We were in the same situation tonight; we’ve been here. And tonight, we were able to close the game out in our favor.”
With an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Huskies knew they couldn’t take their foot off the gas as the Captains are always ready to make a run. By late in the fourth quarter, Loudoun County had made it a one possession game.
“They’re a good ball club, so we knew they’d make a run,” Newkirk said. “As much success as we’re having, we have to understand when they make a run, we can bend but can’t break.”
With about two minutes to play, Loudoun County sent Tuscarora to the line for a bonus free throw and twice the Huskies missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity allowing the Captains to draw near.
But when it mattered most, O’Malley knocked down both of his bonus free throws to wrap up his 11-point, 13-rebound double double and give his team the win.
“Gavin’s our leader, and he knows it. He understands the work that needs to be done,” Newkirk said. “Whether it’s producing offensively, rebounding, or being a defender. Tonight, he gave us a little bit of everything.”
Tuscarora (4-0, 7-2) will look to ride that win into their next Leesburg-area rivalry with Heritage on January 6, while Loudoun County (2-1, 6-4) will look to bounce back when they travel to rival Loudoun Valley on the same night.
“We haven’t earned anything yet; we haven’t won anything yet,” O’Malley said. “We just have to keep that mentality and keep working hard.”
Loudoun County Stats