Loudoun County, Va. — As the high school boys basketball season heats up in Loudoun County, a few local teams have started to stand out from the crowd, while several others are potential contenders. Each week, Owen Gotimer and I will be alternating releasing our boys and girls basketball rankings. In a three-district county, we wanted a way to put things into perspective. Enter: the LoCo Top 5.
The upcoming week features some incredible matchups. Dominion will travel to Loudoun Valley in a matchup of the top two teams in the Dulles District on January 14, and the Titans will travel to the current third place Loudoun County Raiders on January 17.
Also on January 17, the rematch of last year’s end of season heavyweight matchup, as Potomac Falls will go to Freedom and try to avenge last year’s state semifinal loss.
Of course, if you’re into hard numbers, check out the full Cedar Run District, Potomac District, and Dulles District standings.
If, for some unbeknownst reason, you’re here to listen to my opinion, well let’s get started.
1. John Champe (3-0, 10-3) +1
Last year, when John Champe and Freedom played, it was clear which team was better. Even though the two split their matchups, the Eagles had a much better season and were a much better team. That isn’t the case this year.
The two teams split their games again this year, but now there’s a clear argument to be made that the Knights are the better team.
The preseason focus was all (rightfully) on senior forward Tyler Savage, and while he’s been phenomenal, there’s an argument to be made that he isn’t the best player on the team. That might be one of Jalen or James Jasper – two artful guards who orchestrate the offense with beautiful precision.
With a powerful defensive scheme and a solid bench filled with good role players, this is a team that’ll dominate and may not surrender this top spot for the rest of the year.
2. Potomac Falls (2-0, 9-3) +1
Landon Hawes recently scored his 1000th point as a Panther, another accolade in the long list that he’s cultivated for himself as one of the best players in the program’s storied history.
I had serious doubts about this team coming into the year. Without Ian Anderson, I wondered if they’d be anywhere near as effective offensively or defensively. A few early-season losses made me feel a bit bolder about writing them off…
Okay, so that was a dumb take. In hindsight, the best idea would’ve been to look at Jeff Hawes, Landon Hawes, and Jalen Coker and realize that they’d figure it out. The cream of the crop rises to the top, and the Panthers find themselves in a familiar spot, at the top of the Potomac District.
3. Loudoun Valley (2-0, 8-3) -2
As some teams rise, others must fall, and the Loudoun Valley Vikings fell just a little bit. It was just one loss, to the Stone Bridge Bulldogs, but it was quite a notable one because it showed a possible limitation for this team.
Trent Dawson dropped 38 in that loss, yet the rest of the team wasn’t able to step up. It raises questions about a possible way to limit a team that relies too heavily on one player. There’s a pretty good chance these concerns are invalid, but it’s something to monitor as we get into crunch time in an entertaining Dulles District.
4. Freedom (2-1, 8-5) —
To the Riverside fans who are going to be upset with Freedom being at No. 4, remember Lance Johnson only played 25 minutes in that game due to some questionable calls. While a win is a win, an overtime loss with their star player only playing two-thirds of the game doesn’t penalize the Eagles.
To Loudoun County, who also beat Freedom, I’m intrigued but need to see a bit more before putting you in the ranking. A win over Dominion on January 17 might be enough.
But enough about other teams, let’s talk about Freedom.
The Eagles aren’t terribly consistent, as the losses to Riverside and Loudoun County show, but when they’re on, they’re at the top of the entire county. They beat John Champe in their second matchup of the season, and they’re starting to find some more options to fill out their rotation.
If you don’t know about Lance Johnson, start learning. The Randolph Macon-commit is a defensive stud and a low-post threat, who can step out and space the floor when needed. Around him is senior point guard Robbie Kemmerer, who had an 11 point, 10 rebound, 6 assist game in the team’s last outing.
Then there’s Elijah Easter and Anish Kalyan, both of whom have started at points in the year and currently are big parts of the rotation that can pick up the scoring slack on a night when they’re needed.
There’s a huge test on January 17 against Potomac Falls, a possible preview of things to come in the postseason.
5. Stone Bridge (2-0, 7-2) +3
Entering the LoCo Top 5 for the first time this winter, Stone Bridge picked up two huge wins to start their 2020. After knocking off Woodgrove on January 3, the Bulldogs outlasted rival Briar Woods, 70-67, on January 6. Then, three days later, Stone Bridge defended their home court with a 77-66 win over No. 3 Loudoun Valley.
Led by senior guards Michael Healy and Michael Jerome and senior forward Isaiah Rhodes, the Bulldogs are the highest scoring team in Loudoun, averaging 72.89 points per game. If they keep that clip up and escape the dangerous Riverside team on January 17, Stone Bridge could solidify itself as a Top 5 team throughout the season.
On the bubble: Dominion (3-0, 8-3)
Wanna discuss the rankings? Hit me up via email at email@example.com or on Twitter/Instagram @byvarunshankar.