By Arnav Kumar
LoCoSports Staff Writer
Aldie (January 10, 2017) – Coming off of multiple outstanding performances from senior guard Dom Fragala, the John Champe High School Knights were riding a wave of confidence before their meeting with the undefeated Loudoun Valley High School Vikings, despite recent losses in holiday tournament play. However, the Vikings quickly shattered the Knights’ hopes, as they executed on all cylinders en route to a 41-point win, led by senior guard Nick Ball and junior guards Jordan Miller and Dom Peterson.
The duo of Ball and Miller combined for 55 points while Peterson added 19 points as Loudoun Valley defeated John Champe, 94-53, in Aldie on January 9.
Both teams came out of the gates trying to press each other and force mistakes, leading to an overall rapid speed of play. Although both teams were trading baskets at first, the Vikings took an early lead, largely due to the effort of Peterson – who had multiple steals and three-point baskets.
The overall hustle from Peterson allowed Valley to get in transition and score on open, uncontested layups.
Down on the block, Loudoun Valley was very physical; however, their aggressiveness backfired when Miller picked up two early, first quarter fouls.
“We wanted to push the ball and get out [to]get easy transition buckets,” Ball said. “We wanted our game at our pace.”
Despite moving the ball well, Ball was unable to find his shot in the first quarter; however, that all changed in the second quarter, as the junior guard connected on three, three-point shots. Ball’s shooting, Miller’s post play and Peterson’s hustle allowed the Vikings to gain momentum and take the game into their hands.
At first, Champe was unable to respond due to poor shot selection, but once they slowed the game down, they found a groove again. Eventually, Fragala began to get going on the offensive end with a couple of pull-up jumpers, but Viking senior forward Duron Norris kept him out of the lane with multiple swatted shots.
Fragala did make numerous trips to the free throw line which allowed Champe to get back into the game following Loudoun Valley’s run. At the half, Valley was leading the Knights, 49-38.
Riding the momentum from a solid finish to the first half, the Knights looked to cut the lead to single digits out of the locker room; however, the Vikings came out with more passion and physicality, propelling them to a sizable lead in the third quarter.
Ball and Peterson continued to push the ball up the court and get shots around the basket, while Norris and Miller contested shots in the paint. Both players were big factors in the Knights’ frustration, as they did not allow Fragala to convert the contested layups that he usually finishes.
“I just concentrated on playing the game and limiting Fragala to the least number of points and shots as possible,” Miller said.
When unable to skip the ball up the court rapidly, the Vikings were content to run their half-court offense against a Champe zone defense. Due to their outstanding ball movement, the Vikings’ possessions often times ended with open jump shots or easy layups at the basket following a weak side cut.
“Everyone on our team is a threat, so we found the open guys and they knocked down shots,” Ball said.
One bright spot for the Knights was freshman forward Tyler Savage – who was battling hard on the boards and going after every loose ball. Savage ended up finishing the game with 10 rebounds. Fragala led the way for the Knights with 32 points.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, as Valley continued to pressure the Knights into making poor decisions on the offense end. Loudoun Valley did not take their foot of the gas until the very last minute when they brought all their starters out.
In an up-tempo, fast-paced game, the Loudoun Valley Vikings (5-0, 13-0) proved to be too athletic for the John Champe Knights (3-0, 6-4).
“Our tempo was great,” Miller said. “But there is always room for improvement, which will hopefully be recognized soon.”