South Riding, Va. — A lot of the buzz in Loudoun County and the Potomac District has centered around Potomac Falls, and rightly so. The Panthers are incredible and haven’t lost yet. But, behind them is a team that people are sleeping on just a bit.
The Freedom High School boys basketball team is… a very good team. They have three great scorers (more on that in a bit) and play incredible defense. Head coach Justin Powers has a team that’s going to play tough defense and will play smart, solid basketball on offense.
The Eagles have been consistent the entire year, losing only two games, one of them a 65-58 loss to Potomac Falls on December 19. Currently, the Eagles are 9-4 overall and 4-2 in the Potomac District, sitting in second place.
On January 4, Freedom took on the John Champe Knights in a highly-attended, rivalry matchup. The gym was packed with fans from both sides, but the game was decided quickly: a 69-33 rout by the Eagles.
Great Guard Play
The starting backcourt for Freedom of junior Robbie Kemmerer and senior Kyle Skinner is one of the best in Loudoun County. Their games complement each other’s perfectly: Kemmerer with an ability to drive and get to the rim, and Skinner with a great ability to shoot from three.
Kemmerer had multiple aggressive drives throughout the game and finished on a number of them, finishing with 15 points. While Skinner wasn’t on fire throughout the game like he has been in the past, he displayed a knack for getting open and getting a smooth shot off.
However, what makes this team so difficult to guard and what separates them from some of the other contenders in the district is the bench scoring. In this game, junior guard Angelo Easter looked phenomenal, scoring 18. He’s a great sixth man for them and could be the difference for the Eagles in the district tournament.
I love watching junior Lance Johnson play. He’s so rugged in the way he plays, but he’s so versatile. He’s primarily a post player, but he matched up today against junior guard Tyler Savage. Johnson is excellent defensively.
I’m going to elaborate on Savage in a bit, he’s an incredible athlete and a good finisher but Johnson was with him the entire night. Whenever the two were in the game together, Johnson guarded Savage and was on him like cheese on mac.
Johnson blocked Savage off the glass a few times, and while he wasn’t featured in the offense, he made his mark on the boards. Johnson finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and this sick rejection of Savage.
— WashPost HS Sports (@WashPostHS) January 8, 2019
Johnson is a versatile defender who Freedom’s going to rely on more and more as the team gets further into the season.
There’s no denying Tyler Savage’s talent. He’s 6-foot-3, can jump out of the gym, and has great explosion. He’s also got to be better.
He scored 17 in the game, but it was a very inefficient 17. Part of that was due to the defense of Johnson, but it’s also because John Champe was extremely predictable.
Walk the ball up the court, give it to Savage on the right side behind the three-point line, then clear out. Savage would then get past his man and be met by a Freedom big man at the rim, who would force a contested and awkward layup or block the shot.
Let’s switch it up, shall we? Savage is incredibly quick, but he doesn’t have a great shot. So let’s get him moving without the ball. Let someone like senior guard Dalton Young bring the ball up and get Savage moving towards the basket full speed before he gets the ball. Mix in a few variations where he cuts backdoor or flares out for a shot or a position where he can attack a closeout.
Savage is such a special talent, you’re not going to find many athletes like him in the county – other than maybe Heritage senior guard Gio Wooten – but he’s got to be used more effectively so he can truly lead his team to success.
This is a short and quick observation, but Freedom has two big men who do the small things perfectly. Junior Nicholas Westfall and senior Madden Moore are the definition of old-school, muck-it-up, play tough, centers.
Westfall had a screen in the first quarter where he nearly knocked the John Champe defender over. He moves really well and gives the Eagles’ guards the room they need to operate.
Moore had a beautiful block and was solid. The two aren’t going to pop and aren’t going to be the difference in any game, but they’re solid rotation players and you need those.
For Freedom, the goal is staying close to Potomac Falls and try to avoid playing them until the Potomac District tournament championship. They’re currently in second place in the district after beating Stone Bridge and Broad Run in their last two games and have a district record of 4-2, behind Potomac Falls’ 6-0.
For John Champe, they’re now 1-5 in the district after a loss to Broad Run and are 6-7 overall. They’ve got to find a way to turn it around in their next few games against Stone Bridge and Briar Woods and figure some things out… and fast. They’ve got the Panthers at home on January 18 , certainly a game worth monitoring.