By Owen Gotimer
Leesburg (February 19, 2017) — After starting the season 6-6, the Potomac Falls High School boys basketball team had to dig itself out of a big hole. And their hard work finally came to fruition on February 17 when the No. 1 Panthers dominated the No. 3 Stone Bridge Bulldogs from the get-go to cruise to a, 68-48, Conference 14 tournament championship, backed by double-digit scoring efforts from four different guys.
“We knew they were going to come with something on Brian – like everyone is doing lately – and we thought that maybe they’d try to do something to David – because David had 38 last time we played them,” Potomac Falls head coach Jeff Hawes said. “We tried to prepare for everything they could possibly do. It’s tough to match up with us with all the weapons. It’s a nice problem for us to have.”
In the title game, the Panthers’ weapons came in the form of senior guards David Walls, Christian Sweazie and Brian Sweeney and sophomore forward Ian Anderson who combined for 63 points, 25 rebounds and 8 assists.
“I was just playing my game, not forcing anything,” Sweazie said. “When I had shots I took them, when I didn’t have an open look, I found my teammates and they hit their shots when we needed them to.”
After transferring from Middleburg Academy prior to his senior season, Sweazie – who has tallied double-digit points in 17 of his last 19 games, while leading the Panthers in assists in 9 of the last 10 games – has bought into the basketball tradition at Potomac Falls and helped the Panthers maintain their status as one of the top teams in northern Virginia.
“I always grew up watching Potomac Falls, wishing I could play for them,” Sweazie said. “And now, I am playing for them and it’s unbelievable. I love playing for coach Hawes; he’s a high-energy dude.”
Sweazie, Hawes and the rest of the Panthers team didn’t have an easy path to the Conference 14 final after struggling early on in the season. However, after starting 6-6, the Panthers are riding a 12-game winning streak.
“It just clicked. We started playing as a team,” Sweazie said. “Early on, we were playing as individuals, trying to get our own, but then it just clicked, and we started playing for each other.”
Even during that 12-game run, Potomac Falls had to narrowly escape conference rivals Stone Bridge and Broad Run in the regular season before going down to the wire with Tuscarora in a Conference 14 semifinal.
“We really wanted the bye and home court in the region. It was great to escape Tuscarora,” Hawes said. “It felt like we cleared that hurdle. Usually, in the NCAA tournament, the team that wins has one game like that where they barely survive. It was a good wake up call for us.”
While Potomac Falls’ wakeup call came in the form of a close win over the Huskies, Stone Bridge’s wakeup call came in the form of the Panthers’ high-powered offense.
“Give Potomac Falls all the credit. They played great,” Stone Bridge head coach Corey Stitzel said. “We had a game plan to take away Sweeney. And Sweazie came out. Potomac Falls was the better team. They played like the better team. They played better than us tonight.”
Yet, Stitzel isn’t hanging his head at his team’s effort this winter as his young roster includes just one senior.
“We start a freshman and sophomore, so we’re probably a year away,” Stitzel said. “I thought we could get here and we did get here, but next year is probably the year we’re looking to win the conference championship.”
Stone Bridge’s season isn’t over yet as the Bulldogs host Conference 15 No. 3 seed Massaponax High School in a VHSL 5A North region first round game on February 20 in Ashburn.
With their tournament championship victory, Potomac Falls earned a first round bye and will host the winner of the first round game between Conference 16 No. 2 Patrick Henry and Conference 13 No. 3 Thomas Jefferson in a region quarterfinal on February 21.
“As a team, we put hard work and effort to where we are right now,” Walls said. “So yeah, winning the championship feels pretty great.”