Leesburg, Va. — With 17 seconds left on the clock and the outcome decided, Loudoun County High School seniors Matt Anderson and Mark Siegel turned to each other as one of their teammates shot free throws, both grinning ear to ear. They embraced, and then Anderson was subbed out to raucous cheers from the Loudoun County faithful. “M-V-P,” they chanted to their conquering hero, the one who had just delivered them a Dulles District boys basketball championship after a, 51-43, victory over Loudoun Valley High School on February 21 in Leesburg.
When the buzzer sounded, fans and players alike celebrated, jumping up and down in a mosh pit holding the two trophies, one for the regular season and one for the playoffs.
“I’m looking at the crowd, looking at all my friends, and I turn back to the court and see all my guys,” Anderson said. “We all got smiles on our face, we know we’re gonna win. It’s just gonna be a great night for all of us.”
A great night it was indeed, as Anderson and his teammates were jubilant for the rest of the night, hugging everyone in sight, teammates, fans, coaches, and reporters…during interviews.
They didn’t have much to be elated about at the start of the game, as the Loudoun County basket seemed to have a lid on it. It took about five minutes for them to score their first bucket, putting them into an early deficit.
“I just told them to calm down. They’re ramped up when you see a Raider Riot that big, you see a Jungle that big, arguably the two best cheering sections in the county right now,” Loudoun County head coach Mark Alexander said. “They’re kids, you know, they’re ramped up. I told them just to relax and keep grinding, and they would find some shots”
The marquee matchup coming into the game was the one between the two superstar senior point guards, Loudoun County’s Matt Anderson and Loudoun Valley’s Trent Dawson. The two have been playing against each other since elementary school, rivals from a young age.
“The amount of times we’ve played, you’d think we’d hate each other, right? That we’re our arch nemeses?” Anderson said. “But really, Trent’s my boy, I’ll come up to him. I’ll hang out with him at a party. But when it comes to game time, I gotta do me, and if he can’t stop me, then that’s how it’s gonna be.”
Both crowds were raucous beyond belief, chanting for their players and jeering at their opponents. Anderson fed off the energy in the building, the positive but especially the negative.
“This is what I play for,” Anderson said. “I come in here, I hope there’s a big crowd. I hope I get the Valley people chirping at me, that gets me going.”
Although he only shot 2-for-11 from the field, Anderson led the Raiders in scoring because of 7 free throws he made, finishing with 12 points and 5 assists.
We all got smiles on our face, we know we’re gonna win. It’s just gonna be a great night for all of us.
—Loudoun County guard Matt Anderson
The teams traded blows back and forth, and at the end of the first half, senior forward Mark Siegel did what he does best, hit a big shot. His deep-three pointer extended the Raider lead to four, and they didn’t lose the lead from that point forward.
“A two possession game was huge going into the second half,” said Siegel, who finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. “That was a big shot I had to hit.”
To his credit, Dawson tried to will his team back into it. After Loudoun County extended its lead to 12, the Vikings began to climb back into it, Dawson hitting a three to bring them back within 3. However, they weren’t able to climb back in, as he fouled out, and Anderson hit free throws to close it out.
“I feel like they’re being more aggressive on the ball screens,” Dawson said. “I had to retreat and I couldn’t get that edge I usually get to get my shot open.”
“We don’t want him to get anything,” said Loudoun County junior guard Caleb Rexroad, who guarded Dawson for a large part of the night. “We’re going to make the other players beat us.”
The win felt like the culmination of a long-term goal for the Raiders.
“The culture has been built. This is not what I’m trying to build. It’s been built,” Alexander said. “These guys play. They look after each other. We play with that type of intensity we compete regardless of what kind of players we have on the floor. I think they’re just proud to be the Raiders tonight.”
This may not be the last matchup between the two teams as they head into the VHSL Region 4C tournament, something everyone was aware of. If both win their region semifinal matchups, they’ll find themselves in a rematch in Leesburg once again, but this time, it’ll be for a region championship.
“It’s elimination, winner-go-home. You saw us coming out with fire tonight,” Anderson said. “You’re going to see the same County team coming Tuesday.”