Leesburg, Va. — The Potomac Falls High School girls basketball team hangs their hats on their defense. After holding opponents to less than 32 points per game last season—more than 13 points less than the district average—the Panthers showed why they’re a defensive juggernaut when they opened their 2020 campaign in Leesburg on December 22.
After falling into an early deficit due to the three-ball, Potomac Falls moved away from their traditional zone defense, playing man-to-man for a large portion of the second half, collecting 18 steals, blocking 7 shots, and disrupting the Riverside shooters, as the Panthers edged the Rams, 42-39, to win the back and forth battle.
“We wanted to come out and play some good defense, because that’s kind of what we’re known for,” Potomac Falls head coach Lynn Ewald said. “We missed some rotations in the first half and kind of abandoned our zone. We decided to go man-to-man, because we have some athletic, young kids who can get after it a little bit, so we wanted to turn them loose.”
The Panthers were led defensively by senior center Paige Anderson—who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots—and junior guard Olivia Duhaime—who led the team with 7 steals.
“[Olivia]’s just a pitbull out there,” Ewald said. “Her defensive intensity was one of the things that turned the game around. She was able to put some pressure on their guards, and everybody else started to feed off her energy.”
What made the Potomac Falls’ total defensive effort even more impressive is they did it without first team All-LoCo forward Ashley Allen and fellow senior forward Hope Palmer. Ewald expects both Allen and Palmer to return to the court in the near future.
“We’re happy we got the win going into break, so we’ll see what we can do next week,” Ewald said. “Hopefully, we can get everybody healthy so we have our full complement.”
While the Potomac Falls defense proved to be the advantage, the young Riverside team showed stretches of offensive firepower. Led by freshman guard Ella Mahaey—who scored a game-high 18 points—and freshman forward Kaylie Avvisato—who finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists—the Rams shot the ball extremely well from beyond the arc in the first half.
“Riverside is well coached, they were ready to work, and they have a couple of young kids that were just lights out,” Ewald said. “They came ready to play, so you have to give them credit.”
In the end, Potomac Falls’ stifling defense and double-doubles from Anderson and senior forward Xavia Hahn—who finished with with 11 points, 10 boards—were enough to lift the Panthers (0-0, 1-0) over the Rams (0-0, 0-1) in the first game of what’s sure to be an interesting 2020-2021 season.
“You don’t know how many games you have,” Ewald said. “If the spring was any indicator, it can be taken away just like that, especially in these times, so being able to get out here is the best part of 2020 so far.”
Potomac Falls Stats