Purcellville (December 12, 2015) — Just under two weeks into the season, two of the area’s top girls basketball teams met in Purcellville to kickoff the Conference 21B schedule. Loudoun County High School did not score a field goal until the four-minute mark in the first quarter, but the field goals fell after that as the Lady Raiders ran away late in the third quarter to knock off Loudoun Valley High School, 55-38.
“It was just a good run on our part. Sometimes it goes that way,” Loudoun County head coach Derek Fisher said. “It’s tough to play a conference game this early in the year. You prefer to play these games a little later. Both teams are going to be better in a month than they are today. It was a ragged start for both teams. We got to the line and got a little bit of a lead, but we knew they weren’t going to go away.”
The Lady Vikings (0-1, 2-1) were relentless and pulled within four points of the Lady Raiders (1-0, 3-1) half way through the third quarter thanks in part to senior guard Emily Thompson who scored a game-high 18 points after missing most of the 2014-2015 season recovering from an injury.
“For her the sky’s the limit. Her coming back has been a great boost for us and obviously for her. She’s coming back with a vengeance. I told her before our first game last week that every set back is an opportunity for a comeback. She’s coming back hard, shooting it great and playing very unselfish,” Loudoun Valley head coach Kenyamo McFarlane said. “I expect a lot of big things out of her, but with that in mind, so will other teams. We need to figure out a way to get others involved when teams double her and take her away. We’ll need to put points on the board other ways.”
While Thompson shined for the Lady Vikings, Loudoun County sophomore Julia Ng got hot late for the Lady Raiders scoring all of her 11 points in the second half including hitting three straight corner three-pointers in the third and fourth quarter.
“She’s a strong offensive player,” Fisher said. “With a little bit more experience going through the season, we think we can get a little bit more balance, but what you do is try to ride the hot hands as long as you can.”
Fellow Loudoun County sophomore Natalie Villaflor — who led the Lady Raiders with 17 points — helped Ng break away from Loudoun Valley after both teams got off to slow offensive starts in the first half.
“I think we just came together during halftime and reorganized and replanned what we were going to do,” Villaflor said. “We wanted to work an offensive with more movement because standing still wasn’t working out.”
With 19 combined first quarter turnovers, neither offense could get going, but as the game moved on, both teams started taking care of the ball and making the most out of their opportunities.
“Some of that is just attributed to being early in the year, but good defense was being played. They did a good job of forcing turnovers,” Fisher said. “We can live with the turnovers as long as we’re creating some ourselves.”
A young season and teams with some young athletes – two Loudoun County and two Loudoun Valley underclassmen saw regular minutes – means both the Lady Raider and Lady Viking captains have to step up not only their games, but also their leadership in helping to create team chemistry on and off the court.
“It’s easy for younger players to mold into the way we play just because the coaching staff and older girls welcome us and teach us right away how to play County basketball,” Villaflor said.
“We do have a lot of young and newer girls on varsity, but we also have a strong core of older girls. We’re just trying to get them to gel, and Emily, Lindsey, Mar and Alex are doing a great job with the younger girls,” McFarlane said. “It’s good that we’re seeing [Loudoun County] early because that’s probably one of the teams we’ll see on our calendar. Once we get ourselves gelling and really figuring out our roles as individuals and where we are as a team, we’ll be okay.”
Fisher echoed McFarlane noting that each year his team must also create its new personality.
“We’re still trying to build this team. Last year was last year, but we’re not going to be last year’s team,” Fisher said. “We’re going to try to bring some of the same things, but we’re still trying to develop that identity.”
Loudoun County Raiders Stats
Natalie Villaflor 17 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 7-for-8 free throws
Julia Ng 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
Alyssa Paige 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 assists, 2-for-4 free throws
Elisabeth Gianelos 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 blocked shot, 2 steals, 2 assists, 1-for-2 free throws
Maddie Szoka 5 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
Emily Miller 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 blocked shot, 1 assist, 2-for-2 free throws
Katie Van Nuys 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2-for-2 free throws
Morgann Harden 2 points, 3 rebounds, 0-for-1 free throws
Taylor Green 1 rebound, 1 assist
55 points, 18 rebounds, 9 steals, 2 blocked shots, 7 assists, 14-for-19 free throws
Loudoun Valley Vikings Stats
Emily Thompson 18 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals, 2-for-4 free throws
Lindsey Sweet 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 3 assists
Celine Fink 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 2-for-2 free throws
Alex Van Zandt 3 points, 1 rebound, 1-for-2 free throws
Mar Keane 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Haley Pasqualone 2 points
Olivia Badura 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 0-for-1 free throw
38 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 assists, 5-for-9 free throws