Loudoun County, Va. — As the Loudoun County high school boys basketball regular season gets in the heat of the playoffs, a few local teams have continued to stand out from the crowd, others are potential contenders, and many have seen their seasons end. In a three-district county, I wanted a way to put things into perspective. Enter: the LoCo Top 5.
Before that, let’s get to a new section of the Top 5: in memoriam. These are the teams who have seen their seasons end. The list will update and the eulogies will continue as more teams have their campaigns ended by the brutality of the tournament system. I love it. I’m not doing a eulogy for every team, just the ones that made an impact on me.
Broad Run, Heritage, Independence, Park View, and Tuscarora – best of luck next year.
Dominion – Oh so close for the Titans, who were eliminated by Loudoun Valley by a mere three points in a Dulles District semifinal. Head coach Anthony Eifler has established himself as one of the upper-echelon coaches in the county by his ability to adjust to the personnel he has, and with his team losing many parts including guards Sam Shelton and Max Mancuso, he’ll have to divert himself into a more post-oriented scheme next winter. It should be fun, but I’m done covering Dominion, it’s been a great run. Thank you to all there.
John Champe – I’ll get to the Knights more in a bit but for now, they lose forward Tyler Savage, and his athleticism will be missed, but they’ll still be led by the Jasper twins who project to be two of the best guards in the entire county. Head coach Walter Webb was phenomenal in his first season, but there may be issues coming on the horizon.
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. Loudoun County (12-0, 19-5) +2
You want to talk about an impressive set of performances? Start with the Loudoun County Raiders, who are hitting on all cylinders. Their latest win over Loudoun Valley told you exactly what they’re going to do. They’ll slow the game down, play aggressive and disciplined defense, and when it comes down to it, they’ll put the ball in Matthew Anderson’s hands and tell him to make plays.
Try stopping them. Seriously, please do. Loudoun Valley hasn’t been able to through three games this year. Dominion wasn’t able to. Nobody else in the Dulles District came even close, and even in the Potomac District, Freedom got stomped early in the year.
They’re dominating right now, and there’s no reason for them to be anywhere but the top spot.
2. Potomac Falls (9-3, 16-6) +2
It’s incredible. Every season, people wonder if this will be the year the Panthers fall off and every year, they make it back. Head coach Jeff Hawes is a magician; I just don’t know what else to say. They’re like the New England Patriots in that they aren’t a finished product or anything close to it at the beginning of the year, instead they grow and adjust and become a fully-formed product right when the tournament hits.
This year is nothing different. They’re hitting on all cylinders as evidenced in their win over Rock Ridge that secured them the regular season district championship. They have one of the five best players in the county in senior guard Landon Hawes, and another Top 10 player in senior forward Jalen Coker.
Their only obstacle seems to be Freedom, who has their number so far this season, but with home court advantage throughout the tournament, the edge may go to the Panthers.
3. John Champe (8-2, 18-7) –2
Alright, let’s have this conversation. It’s weird to say that this team, which was first in the Top 5 for basically all of this year, drops all the way to third. They had some flaws, ones that didn’t necessarily show up as they beat up on Cedar Run District teams for most of the year.
I don’t think their defense was as good as initially thought, and their offensive talent let them get by. They still had an incredibly successful season that they should be very proud of, rising up from no expectations to being one of the best teams in the county. They showed up for big games against Loudoun County and Freedom, but when faced with Patriot and Forest Park, they weren’t able to pull games out.
Their drop to No. 3 is partly because of that but also just because the top two teams have been so impressive since the last ranking. It’s a classic example of a team grabbing a spot rather than another losing it.
4. Freedom (8-4, 14-8) -2
* Insert “YOU BLEW IT!” GIF here
I give up trying to figure this team out. They look phenomenal most of the time, playing great defense and getting timely buckets. They’re the only team that’s consistently befuddled Potomac Falls.
But they’re so inconsistent. They’ve been up and down the entire year, and their loss to Stone Bridge – on senior night nonetheless – lost them the Potomac District title and home court throughout the VHSL Region 5C tournament.
They’d be lower, if not for this…in a potential future matchup against Potomac Falls, they’re the only Region 5C team that has coin flip or maybe even better odds. The question is, will they even make it to that matchup or will their inconsistent play knock them out?
5. Loudoun Valley (9-3, 18-7) +3
As a huge Washington Capitals fan, I realized that the Pittsburgh Penguins just had the Caps’ number. Sometimes that’s how it is, whether a matchup that’s best for a team based on actual personnel and playing style or mental, one team can’t beat another.
It seems like that might be happening this year with Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County, as in three meetings, the Vikings are 0-3. The Raiders do a great job limiting Loudoun Valley point guard Trent Dawson and forcing him to pass to teammates who often can’t create for themselves.
Sometimes, things change. 2018, the Capitals beat the Penguins, showing that a lot of these narratives are just that, narratives that can be disproved. It’s a small sample size, but there’s the possibility Trent Dawson could get one more shot at Matt Anderson and the Raiders.
If both teams win their first round matchups, there’ll be a stupidly fun rematch on February 27. I cannot wait.
On the bubble: Dominion (9-3, 16-7), Stone Bridge (8-4, 15-6)
Wanna discuss the rankings? Hit me up via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter/Instagram @byvarunshankar.