Sterling, Va. — At the risk of hyperbole, the biggest game of the Potomac District boys basketball season was played on February 13. All due respect to Briar Woods and Rock Ridge – both of whom played an exciting back and forth game filled with drama in the other semifinal – but the game between Potomac Falls and Freedom High Schools’ boys basketball teams was exquisite.
The Panthers came in undefeated, looking to avenge a season last year in which they lost their coveted district championship to Freedom. They beat the Eagles two times during the 2018-2019 regular season – by 7 points and then by 16 points – but in this match up, they were overmatched by a Freedom team that put all their pieces together in a performance they’d wanted to see throughout the year.
Plagued by inconsistency on both ends of the court, the Eagles went 2-6 in their last eight district games to close out the season – the last one a 70-51 drubbing by crosstown rival John Champe. In the first round of the district tournament, they defeated the Stone Bridge Bulldogs, or as I like to call them, Evan Buckley and Company.
That brings us to February 13 – where in a raucous Potomac Falls gymnasium – the Freedom Eagles put on a masterful showing in which they played as close to a perfect game as you can play against as good a team as you will see in this area – and knocked them off, 72-55. What exactly did they do? Well, read and find out.
Freedom junior guard Angelo Easter was phenomenal
“He’s a great sixth man for them and could be the difference for the Eagles in the district tournament.”
Those are my own words, way back on January 13. That sound you hear is me tooting my own horn. Now, I wasn’t totally right, as Freedom started Easter in a small three-guard lineup, but his impact could not have been more pronounced. The 5-foot-11, 145-pound guard scored 31 points. He was incredible throughout the game. Any time he had the opportunity to push the ball in transition, he did so, leading to numerous fastbreak points.
Easter drew a grand total of zero free throws in the first half, but in the second, he seemed to be constantly at the line, going 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. His ability to change speeds and get to the rim is a large part of the Freedom offense. And when he gets in the open court – SHEESH – that boy is zooming.
Angelo Easter = HELLA FAST
Madden Moore = AOS Senior showing some basketball IQ and smart play down low in the post
Ian Anderson = Very good player
— Varun Shankar (@ByVarunShankar) February 14, 2019
Easter is a confident player, and that shows in his play. Even when matched up with bigger players, he defends with an attitude, finishing with four steals against Potomac Falls. Watch out for him down the stretch, and especially next year, when he should move into senior Kyle Skinner’s starting guard spot.
Big men still matter: Lance Johnson vs Ian Anderson
Everyone – I have an important announcement to make. The reports of the death of the big man have been greatly exaggerated. The big man is alive and well and making an impact on the sport of basketball.
Potomac Falls forward Ian Anderson is 6-foot-7. Freedom forward Lance Johnson is 6-foot-6. These are two very large individuals. When two individuals of such a size decide to battle in the post, there are opportunities for sparks to fly. Now, Johnson scored 2 points and Anderson was exceptional throughout the night, finishing with 22 points.
But something – I don’t know whether it was the flow of the game, I can’t quite pinpoint it – but something didn’t seem quite right with Ian Anderson and that’s a credit to the Freedom scheme and specifically, the players executing that scheme.
Lance Johnson wasn’t on Anderson for the entire game, but when he was, he was able to match up pretty well with the all-state Anderson. In the district final, Freedom will have to take on Holden Phillips, the 6-foot-6 forward from Briar Woods – who dropped 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds his the Falcons’ semifinal win. How that match up between Phillips and Johnson plays out could decide the game.
The traditional old-school center Madden Moore
Let’s get a loud round of applause for Academy of Science and Freedom senior center Madden Moore. In what could have been his last game with the black and gold, Moore played a spectacular game. He was able to make an impact when it really mattered.
Moore is the traditional old-school center who plays with his back to the basket a great deal of the time, and if i’m being honest with you, I love it. His post game is so smooth, with footwork clearly built by repetition and a ton of drills.
He scored 8 points in the game, but his discipline on the defensive end – specifically on the defensive glass – cannot be overstated.
Beating the Potomac Falls press
This one is pretty short, but I just wanted to shout out the two other guards on Freedom, junior Robbie Kemmerer and senior Kyle Skinner. Potomac Falls threw a variety of looks at them – laying back in a zone, trapping, and some aggressive traps – and Skinner and Kemmerer navigated through all those looks with crafty handles. Skinner finished with 10 and Kemmerer with 17, but I was most impressed by their ability to weave in and out of the defense, an ability that was simply sensational.
Freedom will take on Briar Woods in the Potomac District championship on February 15. The winner of that game will go on to face Stone Bridge in a VHSL Region 5C quarterfinal. For Potomac Falls, they’ll try to rebound when they host Falls Church in a VHSL Region 5C quarterfinal on February 19.
I’ll be covering two games on February 15, when Tuscarora will take on Freedom in the girls Potomac District championship at 6pm and Briar Woods will take on Freedom in the boys Potomac District championship at around 7:45pm. Give me a follow @ByVarunShankar and be sure to check me going live before and after the games to answer questions and talk to players on these four talented teams.