Leesburg, Va. — In their first Dulles District meeting since coming off winter break, the Heritage High School girls basketball team used an explosive first quarter, an aggressive full court press, and a dominating rebounding effort to hold off Dominion, 49-41, on January 10 in Leesburg.
“Our zone press is our bread and butter,” Heritage head coach Otto Jett said. “We wanted to keep them from scoring quick baskets and force them to work the ball around.”
Heritage used their full court pressure to force 7 Dominion turnovers in the first quarter while quickly jumping out to a 15-3 lead, holding Dominion field goalless through the first eight minutes.
Trailing by double digits early, the Titans took the intermission between the first and second quarter to reorganize with a focus on slowing things down and making the most of each possession. While the Pride forced another 9 turnovers in the second quarter, Dominion also took advantage of some Heritage miscues to cut the lead to just 10 heading into the half.
Coming out of the half, the Pride made a concerted effort to get the ball into the paint, where junior forward Ayanna McNair and freshmen forwards Myah Gross and Kaitlyn Puzenski found some holes and made the Titans pay.
“We have some great wing players which makes it tough for people to match up with us,” Jett said. “The defense has to come out to play them, so we can work the ball inside to Ayanna, Kaitlyn, and Myah.”
On the perimeter, Heritage got a 10-point performance from yet another freshman Addison Padgett, who came off the bench and offered the Pride the spark they needed to fend off a Dominion rally in the second half.
“Our freshmen have been following the program for awhile, so they knew what to expect,” Jett said. “They work hard, and we’ve seen great results from them.”
The Heritage freshmen combined to score 27 points, grab 20 rebounds, and steal 8 Dominion passes, while the poised, experienced McNair finished with a 10-point, 11-rebound double double.
Despite falling into the big deficit early, the Titans never gave in, cutting the lead to just 6 points twice in the second half, thanks in part to the defensive play of senior forward Bailey Vann and the scoring ability of junior forward Katie Christ, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
“[Katie Christ] played a hell of a game,” Jett said. “She played really well tonight.”
Every time Christ and the Titans (1-4, 1-8) pulled close, however, the Pride (3-3, 5-8) turned up their defensive effort and kept Dominion at a reasonable distance to ultimately improve to .500 in the Dulles District.
“The bottom line is we need to keep playing good defense and getting on the boards,” Jett said. “That’s how we’re going to win ball games.”