Leesburg, Va. — After leading most of the game, the Dominion Titans found themselves in an unfamiliar position with less than two minutes to play as Loudoun County had not only erased a double-digit deficit but had taken the lead. Knowing his team needed a big play, Dominion senior guard Aidan Edwards buried a three pointer—his third of the game—as the Titans retook the lead. On their very next possession, the Titans broke the Captains’ press and found senior forward Justin Mann wide open under the basket where Mann finished with an emphatic slam dunk.
Under normal conditions, that dunk would have erupted the gym, but with the stands void of spectators due to COVID-19, the Titans celebrated their season opening win quietly, 55-50.
“I’m proud of these guys. County made a run there, and we didn’t shut down,” Dominion head coach Anthony Eifler said. “We had gotten a little bit loose at the four or five minute mark when we started being careless. We valued the ball a little bit better over the last two minutes, we buckled down, and we got the win. This is a great first step.”
Dominion used three pointers from Edwards, Mann, and fellow senior guard Nick Sibley to jump out to an early first quarter lead.
“This senior group has been successful at every level that they played,” Eifler said. “They’re awesome kids, they’re coachable, they do everything we ask of them, and I’m just glad they get the opportunity to come out here and show what they can do.”
WIth Loudoun County continuing to stick around, the Titans turned up the defensive intensity in the first half, holding the Captains’ big men to just 4 points through the first two frames. Mann and co. combined for 5 blocked shots in the first half, including Mann himself swatting a floater attempt into the bleachers.
“We play very physical on defense. That’s when this team excels,” Mann said. “Other teams are faster than us, but we are bigger, so we can body up in the paint.”
Despite the excellent defensive effort by the Titans in the first half, the Captains just wouldn’t go away. After being held scoreless in the first half, Loudoun County senior center Nate Brown finished with a game-high 16 points while junior forward George Mwesigwa added 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Trailing 46-40, the Captains started getting into the paint as Brown connected on a pair of free throws and Mwesigwa collected an offensive rebound and finished. Then down 46-44, junior guard Jimmy Daughtrey hit a couple jumpers to give Loudoun County the lead.
From there, however, it was all Titans as Edwards connected on the big three pointer to finish with a team-high 11 points, and Mann put the nail in the coffin with his dunk to match Edwards’ 11-point performance.
“These guys are my brothers. We’ve grown up together,” Mann said. “To be out there and actually be able to play this season is a blessing. I’m ready to go to war every night with them.”
Dominion (0-0, 1-0) is coming off a season where they finished in third place in the district, and despite graduating a healthy amount of minutes, the Titans were excited to open their 2020-2021 campaign against the reigning Dulles District champions and VHSL 4A State quarterfinalist Captains (0-0, 0-1).
“We’ve been talking about this game since the schedule came out. I’m glad we started the year with Loudoun County, because it will give us a good measuring stick of where we want to be. It’s good to get that first one under their belt.”
Loudoun County Stats