Leesburg, Va. — Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
It’s a familiar sound for the Potomac Falls High School boys basketball team. The sound of head coach Jeff Hawes’ shoe hitting the hardwood.
It was 4-0 less than 90 seconds in, but Hawes wasn’t going to let the region championship game get anymore out of hand. Time out, Panthers.
Hawes rallied his troops and – despite earning a state playoff berth the night before – encouraged them not to get complacent. The Panthers responded.
After another Riverside basket, Potomac Falls went on a 16-3 run to close the first quarter, and the Panthers never looked back en route to their second straight VHSL Region 5C championship, 63-54, over the Rams on February 28 in Leesburg.
“They say it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Hawes said. “Well, it’s hard to beat a good team three times, and we beat three very good teams for the third time in four days, and we were left with the task of doing it on their home floor because of scheduling quirk.”
Region 5C predetermines its championship game sites, so while the Panthers were the No. 1 seed in the region, they had to “host” No. 6 Riverside at Riverside in the region championship game.
“Last night, we found out Riverside won, we were kind of disappointed that we had to come here even though we were the 1 seed,” Potomac Falls senior forward Landon Hawes said. “But we were like, let’s go do it on their court.”
Entering hostile territory, exactly a month after escaping Riverside on the same court in the regular season, Potomac Falls knew a tall task was ahead of them.
If you told me two months ago we were gonna win the region, I wouldn’t have believed you.
—Potomac Falls head coach Jeff Hawes
After the slow start, the Panthers put on a rebounding clinic as Hawes and fellow senior forward Jalen Coker combined for 24 rebounds to Riverside’s 25 team rebounds.
“I knew I had to come out and rebound,” Coker said. “I shot a little bit early, and it was not falling for me, so I knew I needed to rebound on the other end of the court to help my team win.”
Their rebounding effort gave Potomac Falls some momentous second-chance opportunities while limiting Riverside to single shot attempts on the other end. Coker dominated the glass in the first half, leading the charge with 9 points and 10 rebounds through the first two quarters. Hawes, on the other hand, got out to a slow start, but made some adjustments in the second half to keep his team going.
“My shots weren’t really falling tonight. It seemed like they were going in and out,” Hawes said. “I just told myself, let me just start attacking. I just wanted to get to the rim and get my flow back.”
And flow he did. After a 6-point, 5-rebound first half, Hawes turned in 15 points and 6 rebounds in the second half to finish with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double.
“It’s never been about Landon. It’s never about me,” Hawes said. “But as a dad, and the career he’s had, I think he was unbelievable tonight.”
Not to be outdone, Coker finished with his own 16-point, 13-rebound double-double.
“Our two studs really played like studs,” Coach Hawes said. “Everybody else accepted a role and started to play really well, too.”
It was not an easy road to victory for Potomac Falls, who almost saw their championship dreams come crashing down around them in a region quarterfinal against No. 8 Briar Woods on February 25. The Panthers trailed for most of the second half but ended up squeaking out a win in overtime, 54-51.
“We were really nervous about Tuesday night, but to escape that one, the way we escaped,” Coach Hawes said. “I told my wife we might win the whole thing now.”
For Coach Hawes, it seems like getting to the region championship is all it takes. Over the last eleven seasons, Hawes has led the Panthers to six region championship games. Their record? 6-0.
But like with the conversation they had after the early time out in the region title game, the Panthers aren’t ready to get complacent.
“We’re going to enjoy this for the weekend,” Landon Hawes said. “But we gotta get back to work on Monday, because we’re going after something else now.”
Potomac Falls Stats
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