Leesburg, Va. — Loudoun County High School and Carroll County High School are physically separated by 280 miles and a five-hour bus ride. But what separated the Lady Raiders and Cavaliers on February 22 was 17 points, as Loudoun County avenged their 2016 playoff loss to Carroll County with a 52-35 win in a VHSL 4A West region semifinal in Leesburg.
“Our ball movement really helped tonight,” Loudoun County junior center Natalie Villaflor said. “We were able to distribute the ball to all our scorers pretty evenly.”
While the Lady Raiders had four girls with 6-plus points, Villaflor once again led the field scoring 22 points as she broke Loudoun County’s single season scoring record with her 650th point of the season. Villaflor now holds the record at 661 points in a season, with at least two games left to play.
Loudoun County senior guard Emily Miller added to the historic night setting the Lady Raiders’ single season record for assists with No. 185.
But the records and win didn’t come easy for Loudoun County as Carroll County pulled within four points with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“We knew all about their quality. We knew just how good they are,” Loudoun County head coach Derek Fisher said. “We weren’t surprised one bit that they gave us a game. They obviously showed that they have a lot of game and a lot of good players.”
The Cavaliers were led by senior guards Keely Lundy – 13 points, 4 rebounds – and Mattie Kennedy – 6 points, 12 rebounds. Carroll County dominated the glass – due in part to Kennedy’s effort – outrebounding Loudoun County, 39-20.
“We felt like we may have advantage on the boards,” Carroll County head coach Marc Motley said. “The problem is they’re so methodical on offense that it’s difficult to get your two bigs in at the same time, because you can’t put enough pressure on the basketball. I thought we did a good job rebounding, but we didn’t do a good job of finishing second chance opportunities.”
And methodical, the Lady Raiders were. In the first quarter alone, Loudoun County scored 8 points in the paint after waiting for plays to develop, heading into the first break with a 16-8 lead.
“Sometimes we get too perimeter. We try to play fast and sometimes the first good look we get is a three,” Fisher said. “Tonight, we were trying to make better shot selections, especially early. We don’t turn off their ability to shoot the perimeter shot, but the emphasis tonight was on better shot selection.”
The Lady Raiders absolutely did not turn off the three, as Loudoun County sophomore guard Morgann Harden connected on two big shots from downtown – one heading into the half with a 26-22 lead.
“Carroll County was making good plays in the first half,” Fisher said. “We didn’t need to make any adjustments. We just wanted to keep playing how we were playing. Sometimes you just need to tip your cap and say nice shot by them.”
Harden’s second three extended the Lady Raiders’ lead to 9 with just over two minutes to play.
Even down nine, the Cavaliers never gave in attacking the basket and pressuring the Loudoun County guards.
“We never quit. Late in the game, we were still putting pressure on them,” Motley said. “Our kids fought hard to the end. I was proud of that.”
Carroll County’s season isn’t done just yet as the Cavaliers play host to Charlottesville High School in the VHSL 4A West region third place game on February 24 to determine seeding for the VHSL 4A state playoffs.
Loudoun County will head to Millbrook High School on February 24 to determine the VHSL 4A West region champion.
“Millbrook is really good. We’re going to have to game plan and figure it out,” Fisher said. “At this level, defense, rebounding and shot selection are all we’re really talking about. For the history of basketball, about 130 years, that’s what has worked.”
|Lady Raiders Totals||52||20||3||7||5||14-for-23|