Purcellville, Va.— Facing the same opponent in the same location just one week later, the Loudoun Valley High School girls basketball team was hoping for the same outcome in their Dulles District quarterfinal against Lightridge High School on February 13 in Purcellville. And while the end result turned out to be the same, the path to get there was drastically different.
On February 6, the Vikings faced a deficit going into the second half of the game and needed a late surge in order to get the victory. But this time around, they took control from the start and never let off the gas pedal, beating the Lightning, 55-38, to advance to a Dulles District semifinal.
“They’re a great team,” Loudoun Valley head coach Bill Reynolds said. “And I thought from their first year they were going to be good.”[adrotate banner=”54″]
Early on, both teams traded baskets and free throws to keep it close, and it wasn’t until late in the first quarter that the Vikings began to pull away. But once they had the lead, they kept it for the remainder of the game, never opening the door for Lightridge to get back in.
This was due in large part to the work in the paint by the Loudoun Valley forwards. Freshman forward Payton Mandichak finished the night with a game-high 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 steals; while sophomore forward Lizzie Thornton contributed 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists; and freshman forward Maggie Mills added 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.
“We realized that we have an inside game, and so we started establishing an inside game,” Reynolds said. “We can go up, we can get rebounds, and we’re not relying on guards to get rebounds. It’s just an easier game.”
The Vikings out-rebounded the Lightning 47 to 27 to control the ball inside, which led to several converted baskets on both the offensive and defensive sides. By halftime Loudoun Valley had a commanding 31-16 lead.
Lightridge freshman guard Jalyn Childress fought hard to help her team get back in the game, making three 3-pointers at crucial times, and junior guard Riley Hwang contributed timely free throws, rebounds, and steals, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the talented young Viking squad.
With no seniors and just one junior on the Loudoun Valley roster, the Vikings have relied on their youth to gain experience and develop throughout the season.
“These girls have just grown exponentially,” Reynolds said. “They’ve matured, so now they’ve learned to act like they’ve been there before.”
The Loudoun Valley players certainly didn’t look like newcomers anymore, as the team held a double-digit lead for most of the game and was carried by the performances of its young athletes. The No. 4 Vikings finished the night with a double-digit win to advance to a Dulles District semifinal against the No. 1 Tuscarora Huskies on February 15.
“Last time we played them, we were right there neck-and-neck with them,” Reynolds said of Tuscarora. “So we’re going to go back and look at that film and see what we did. I think again, we have an advantage on the inside game, so we’re going to try to pound it inside and see if we can use our three post players.”
While the loss ends the Lightridge (7-8, 10-13) season, Loudoun Valley (11-4, 13-9) will look to avenge earlier regular-season losses to Tuscarora and continue their run in the district tournament. The young squad will be put to the test against an accomplished Tuscarora (15-0, 21-1) team.
“They’re all seniors; they’re all savvy,” Reynolds said. “It’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to have to have one heck of a game to beat them.”
Loudoun Valley Stats