Leesburg, Va. — Senior night is meant to be a celebration of family and friends, honoring senior student-athletes for their accomplishments on and off the court over their high school careers. In the COVID-era, however, senior nights look a whole lot different.
Despite an empty gym—and their families streaming their game and senior night ceremony online—Heritage High School seniors Nikki Dean and Emily Whitehouse had a lot to celebrate on their senior night: four years of dedication to the Pride girls basketball program, the opportunity to play their senior seasons, and their first win of the year.
And to make the night even more exciting, the Pride won it in come-from-behind fashion, erasing an 8-point Park View lead to the defeat the Patriots, 36-33, on January 15 in Leesburg.
“Nikki and Emily did a good job of making sure everyone stayed positive,” Heritage head coach Otto Jett said. “We talked about not giving up. We wanted to pressure them full court, getting on them defensively. We just went out there and fought.”
After trailing for most of the night, Heritage was down just 32-31 with 36 seconds left in the game. After a tie up, the Pride inbounded the ball to Dean. Dean drove to the lane then kicked the ball out to sophomore shooting guard Emma Davidson, who knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer.
That 3-pointer was the fourth of the half for the Pride, who struggled to get going offensively, settling for just 14 points in the entire first half.
Both teams got off to slow starts on the offensive end, but Park View turned up the defensive intensity in the second quarter leading to nine Heritage turnovers by way of eight Patriot steals. The defensive effort in the second and third quarters allowed the Patriots to expand their lead to 24-16 midway through the third.
From there, the Pride started to chip away.
Led by Dean—who secured a game-high 7 steals—and Davidson—who scored a team-high 12 points—the Pride slowly but surely worked their way back into the game by capitalizing on second chance opportunities and taking better care of the ball.
But as the Pride started to settle in offensively, so did the Patriots as senior guard Gisele Morris started getting to the line where she knocked down 9 of her 15 free throw attempts. Park View sophomore forward Gwen Balca continued to clean up the boards, which helped to limit Heritage’s second chance opportunities.
“[Coach Mayrose] did a heck of job of coaching her team up tonight,” Jett said.
In the end, the final minute of the game proved to be the deciding factor as the Pride picked up their first win of the season. Heritage (1-2, 1-6) will look to ride that momentum down the stretch. Park View (0-3, 1-4) will look to bounce back when they host Manassas Park on January 16.
“Usually winning is contagious,” Jett said. “We wanted to get this first win under our belt so it can get contagious before the last five games of the season; they’re all winnable games.”
Park View Stats