Leesburg, Va. — When you jump on a team from the get go, you can steal the momentum, knock the wind out of your opposition’s sails, and put a cushion on the scoreboard. That’s just what the Loudoun Valley High School boys basketball team did when they traveled to Tuscarora on January 7 as the Vikings outscored the Huskies 21-8 in the first quarter and went on to win the non-district clash, 66-52.
“We’ve got good shooters so that wasn’t surprising, but it was definitely a motivating factor to see the ball go in the hole early,” Loudoun Valley head coach Chad Dawson said. “Any time you see the ball go in the hole that gets you more motivated on boxing out, rebounding, and playing defense.”
Tuscarora actually got on the scoreboard first as sophomore forward Gavin O’Malley collected an offensive rebound, finished at the rim, got fouled, then completed the three-point play at the free throw line. The Huskies would enjoy a lead for the next two minutes—and then not again for the rest of the contest.
Just over two minutes after Tuscarora broke the scoring egg, Loudoun Valley senior small forward Christopher Zimmet knocked down a three from the corner to give the Vikings’ a 5-3 lead.
With less than four minutes to play in the first quarter, Loudoun Valley freshman guard Jayden Johnson hit a three to extend the Vikings’ lead to 8-3. On the very next Loudoun Valley possession, Zimmet drilled another three. Then a few trips later, Johnson hit his second three-pointer, and quickly, the Loudoun Valley lead had increased to 16-5.
“We’re kind of thin at guard right now, but our guards stepped up big tonight,” Dawson said. “Jayden is a very talented player, very smooth, and very composed for a freshman.”
As the first quarter started to wind down, the Vikings continued to find the bucket as Zimmet finished underneath and got fouled before finishing the three-point play as Loudoun Valley wrapped up the first quarter with a 21-8 lead.
“We came out flat. I thought we executed well early, but we had no energy, and we weren’t making the hustle plays,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Newkirk said. “From the second quarter on we held even, but Coach Dawson did a good job of having his guys ready from the jump—or should I say ‘the throw in.’”
After digging themselves into a hole, the Huskies did what they could to bounce back but despite double digit performances by junior forward Sonny Mannino, senior guard Jack Clark, and O’Malley, that first-quarter deficit was just too much to overcome.
“Their bigs were very tough inside against us,” Dawson said. “They were able to finish probably as well as anyone’s done with Ben [Hall] in there.”
Standing at 6-foot-9, Loudoun Valley junior center Ben Hall gives teams fits, not only because of his length, but because of his sneaky quickness and court vision. Hall played a big role in the Vikings forcing 17 turnovers and chipped in 10 points offensively.
“Ben’s definitely gotten stronger, taller, and his timing inside is very tough,” Dawson said. “He’s starting to come along on the offensive side, too.”
Both Loudoun Valley (0-0, 4-2) and Tuscarora (0-0, 1-5) are relatively young as the Vikings did not return a single starter from last season’s squad and the Huskies have just a single senior on their roster. As both teams mature, they’re looking to celebrate their seniors and get some much needed experience for their younger players in this COVID-ridden season.
“We’re still young and inexperienced,” Dawson said. “But, overall, our guys are starting to step up.”
Loudoun Valley Stats