Even with the two regional tournaments in Class Six diluting and needlessly separating Northern Virginia teams in the region, this time of year is incredibly fun. Let’s cut right to the chase with a look at the Class Five and Class Six regions, with some analysis. We’ll even throw in a prediction or two at the risk of again angering dozens of kids and coaches.
Let’s start with the 6D bracket, otherwise known as the funky “we have to put Marshall somewhere bracket.” A win over Wakefield on the road for the National District title should qualify the Statesmen for a bye, but it doesn’t.
Marshall is still well-positioned to advance far in the field. Osbourn Park and Washington-Lee are dangerous teams whose talented guards can get very hot, but they have no one to give dominant center Daniel Deaver any kind of trouble. Westfield has won three games all year but showed what they can do by beating Madison to qualify for the tournament. W-L will have their hands full with the Bulldogs, but it would be a surprise if any of these teams can go into Marshall and win.
Of the first-round games possibly the most interesting one is McLean-Oakton in a rematch of both teams’ season opener on November 27th. Oakton won that game by 22 points, but expect this battle to be a lot closer. Both teams have been good this year. They’ve both just been unable to quite…be great. The Cougars and the Highlanders have both lacked some consistency but there’s no denying the talent. Micah Johnson-Parrotte and Garrett Johnson can absolutely pour in points, and McLean is senior-powered with Liberty POY Matias Prock leading the way. Should be a good one.
Obviously the teams with byes are the favorites. It will be hard for any team to win a game and then the very next night go on the road and beat a team the caliber of Patriot, South Lakes, or Centreville. Each team will be playing opponents capable of beating them in the second round, but Patriot and South Lakes are well-balanced teams playing extremely good basketball right now. A region final between those two teams seems possible–that would be a matchup of an earlier game this year at South Lakes which the Pioneers won. Devon Parrish went off in that game. It was when Patriot served notice to the region that we were foolish not to include them in our initial Nova Nineteen rankings.
A Patriot-Marshall semi-final would also be a rematch, a game in which Patriot won on Marshall’s home floor. That game was a war in which Hagen Vandiver turned the tide. Check out Deaver’s line in it.
Centreville better watch out for Osbourn if the Eagles get past Herndon. Osbourn is kind of like Marshall in that Rocky Carter’s team must play very good defense to be successful. When healthy Osbourn does play very good defense and has the mojo to beat anybody in the region. Anybody. If there’s anything we’ve seen so far in the postseason it’s that defense is winning games, and the Eagles play it well.
The Wildcats have the toughest road through the region of the teams with byes. They are completely guard-oriented, which makes them capable of beating anyone but also could be a vulnerability against teams like South Lakes and Marshall.
It is tough to see too many upsets in this region, but anything can happen. There’s a lot of parity with Class Six in general.
Otherwise known as the “Occoquan Region.” We don’t like many things about the new regions, but we like that name. Rhymes with “Chaka Khan,” which is a pretty good old group. If you really want our opinion.
Now that we’ve lost everyone under the age of 40, time to discuss the actual region. Wow. Last year it was like South County’s murder zone, with the Stallions’ average margin of victory like 25 points. Hayfield made a nice run but even the Hawks were mowed down by the Stallions.
This year it is way more wide open, though the three favorites are really, really good. West Potomac, Lake Braddock, and South County have been ranked high in our Nova Nineteen most of the year and it would be very surprising if one of them did not win the region.
Lake Braddock just won the Patriot District title from South County and the last two state champions have come from that district. One reason for that is anyone that plays in it is extremely battle-tested. The Stallions are capable of repeating but face a challenging road here. SoCo will be a strong favorite against the winner of Forest Park/Annandale but both of those teams are dangerous. Then the Stallions would have to defeat West Potomac, Hayfield, or Freedom-Woodbridge to qualify for states (top two teams). Hayfield beat South County earlier this year at SoCo, and West Potomac lost by two–missing one key player the entire game and star Daryl Mackey, Jr. late.
These stupid district second round matchups are I guess good for the gate but kind of weak. If talented Fairfax beats Woodbridge they have to play Lake Braddock for the third time this year in the second round. If Hayfield beats Freedom they have to play West Potomac again. Have to admit that would interesting–Hayfield has come very close twice to beating the Wolverines. Close only counts with hand grenades and horseshoes though, not Hawks.
Good first round matchups abound here with maybe our favorite being W.T. Woodson at T.C. Williams. These two used to be in the same district and now they’ll meet again. Inconsistent Woodson is such an odd team, kind of caught in-between styles. They can get up and down the floor with their athleticism but can also pound it inside with Cody Mains and the Jensens. T.C. does have some muscle inside but it is vulnerable there. Jaquan Johnson-Terry is one of the best guards around and the Titans are afraid of exactly nobody. Should be fun.
And how about Gar-Field? The fourth seed out of the Cardinal District, the Indians beat Potomac for the second time this season and then won the district title with a win at Forest Park. Ever see Antwi Asante play? He’s good, and Gar-Field has more than him. The Indians have a bye–can they defeat T.C./Woodson and then (likely) run-and-gun Lake Braddock? It’ll be really, really tough but if you can beat Potomac twice, you can accomplish a lot.
There are no gimmes in this region. Lake Braddock might be the favorite because of their style, which is hard to play against with preparation, let alone for the first time. Still, we thought West Potomac was the best public school in NOVA before the season and when they’ve been healthy. They’re healthy now, so…
P Falls, P Falls, P Falls! Why did you have to lose all those games? Well, it just lost one, to Freedom-South Riding in the district tourney. The Panthers just lost one game the entire year, in fact. But it likely makes their road to a state tournament berth much tougher.
Falls Church has had a good season, but will be hard pressed to even give the Panthers a game. However, now Potomac Falls might have to win at Wakefield in the second round to advance to states. That’s a tough place to play and Tony Bentley’s squad presents a unique challenge for Potomac Falls with their style of play and homecourt advantage.
Still, we said “might have to win at Wakefield.” That’s because the Warriors have to get past Rock Ridge first. Rock Ridge has been slightly inconsistent but had a good season in the Potomac District, finishing ahead of good teams like FSR and Stone Bridge in the regular season. The Phoenix feature Alex Fitch, one of the best shooters in the region, possibly the state. He’s taller than most guards, too, so when he is hitting from deep there’s not much opposing defenses can do. Him, and a solid supporting cast, give Jay Geyer’s squad a fighting chance in Arlington.
The bottom half of the bracket is crazy cool. Haha, you go right ahead and try to predict the winner of Freedom-Stone Bridge. Stone Bridge started the season shockingly bad despite being loaded with shooters and all-everything point guard Evan Buckley. Then the Bulldogs got hot at the right time in the second half of the season and beat everybody in the Potomac except Potomac Falls. Then Freedom, the #5 seed in the district tourney, got hot and beat Stone Bridge, Potomac Falls, and Briar Woods to win it. That’s 37.5% of the teams here, folks.
Does Freedom’s momentum continue or did that team peak emotionally with their incredible run to a district title? Who knows. From a basketball standpoint the Eagles will try and exploit Lance Johnson’s advantage against the Bulldogs inside. Plus, Angelo Easter seems to be scorching hot of late.
Edison and Briar Woods is another toss up. That should be fun. Both teams have shooters that can burn you. Edison’s athleticism and home court advantage will be factors, but Briar Woods’ skill, decent size and competitive district will help them here. Cool thing is anyone can win the bottom half of this bracket and advance to states–total crap shoot.
While the Potomac Falls loss might make them play a tough road game at Wakefield to get to states, the loss might help in the long run. Sometimes undefeated teams need to regain some focus, and the loss to Freedom might help the Panthers to do that. Potomac Falls has lots of talented guards, plus Ian Anderson is the most dominant big guy in the field. They’re still the favorites. We always find it tough to bet against Wakefield this time of year, though, and the experienced returnees from last year’s state title game give Bentley’s squad an edge.