One from each “pod” will qualify for states. Pod #1 winner plays Pod #2, semis, Pod #3 winner plays Pod #4 at Lake Braddock; Championship and Consolation games at Robinson.
Pod #1: South Lakes at T.C. Williams; Osbourn Park at Oakton
With all due respect to South Lakes and Osbourn Park, it’s impossible to not think about the impending second round matchup between the sixth-ranked team in our Nova Nineteen, Oakton, and the second-ranked team, T.C. Williams. It is unfortunate that one of those teams will not qualify for states.
But first thing’s first. South Lakes is an athletic and deep team that can get up and down the floor. Is there any way for the Seahawks to upset the Titans? Anything can happen, but T.C. Williams is just as athletic and deep as South Lakes and extremely talented. The Titans are led by super sophomore guard Trinity Palacio, who scores over 15 a game, and senior forward Bhrandi Crenshaw. But in their next 8-9 players T.C. has everything–shooting, athleticism, defense and most importantly rebounding and post presence. It is hard to see South Lakes winning, because the Seahawks’ strengths are the Titans’–and then some.
Osbourn Park has fantastic senior shooter Nadia Davidson, a Coppin State signee, and talented young guard Sha’Lynn Hagans. But beyond that the Yellow Jackets simply aren’t very deep. Oakton will play intense defense and key on those two and it’s very hard to imagine Osbourn Park scoring enough to steal a victory. The Cougars are extremely fortunate to have three incredible senior weapons on offense: Kailyn Fee, Maddie Royle and Delaney Connolly. That’s a lot harder for the opposition to shut down. It’s a “pick your poison” scenario for the Cougars’ opponents on defense.
We’ll almost certainly go cover Oakton at T.C. Williams should it happen. You get the feeling Oakton still hasn’t shown us its best foot forward yet. With the Cougar suspensions earlier in the year Fred Priester’s team has had less time to play together at full strength than other teams. T.C. meanwhile simply hasn’t been tested much this year. It will be interesting to see how they react to a talented and battle-tested team like Oakton that is way more used to intense playoff basketball than the Titans. Four games (omitting one) with Herndon and Chantilly has Oakton primed for intense competition right now. In short, Oakton at T.C. will easily be one of the games of the year.
Pod #2: Chantilly at Stonewall Jackson; Woodson at Langley
The left side of the bracket is murderous. Another insane very possible second round matchup is #8 Chantilly at #5 Langley. Both of those teams have the talent to advance well into the state tourney but one’s season will end early this week.
First thing is first. Woodson will play intense defense against Langley, but it is hard to imagine the Cavaliers scoring enough to pull the upset. Langley’s star is junior Jordyn Callaghan, but the veteran Saxons get contributions all through their front seven and play fantastic defense themselves. They have height and rebounding, most of their squad can shoot from outside, and their guards are fearless attacking the rim. The Cavaliers are a good team with a bright future but are very young. They will hope they can get 40 or more points and pack it in, praying Langley has an extraordinarily off night.
Chantilly better be careful against Stonewall, the darlings of conference tournament week. The Chargers will be significantly favored in the game but the Raiders are playing good ball right now and succeeding in keeping scores low and playing good defense. Still, while wins over Battlefield and Osbourn Park are impressive, Chantilly is a different animal. When senior forward Mary Clougherty is on she’s magnificent. She’s tall, can hit the three off jumpers, handle the ball and attack the rim.
The Chargers have a lot of other weapons but they haven’t seemed to have been at peak efficiency lately. Last month Centreville defeated Chantilly 44-41. That is exactly where Stonewall needs to keep the score Tuesday night. If the Raiders can play good defense and pound the defensive glass they have enough offensive firepower in Robert Morris signee Megan Callahan and Ricka Jackson to get it done. If Chantilly starts scoring around 13 points a quarter or more, the Chargers will almost certainly advance.
Chantilly-Langley would be a fantastic game. As battle-tested as the Chargers are coming out of the murderous Concorde, Langley is playing extremely well right now and would be a slight favorite.
Pod #3: Centreville at Battlefield; Lake Braddock at Madison
Welcome to the “flip a coin” pod. Hate how the Cedar Run protects its regular season champion in the conference tourney. Battlefield was upset by Stonewall in the semis but suffered no consequences for the regional tourney, retaining its number one seed.
Battlefield does have the talent to win the pod. The Bobcats boast a balanced attack and all top four scorers are seniors. There’s a good bit of experience there with a team that suffered a tough two-point loss to Herndon in last year’s regionals. They have home court advantage and will play in front of a crowded house tonight in the first game of a girls/boys playoff doubleheader.
If you can determine why Centreville plays well enough to upset Chantilly and Herndon one night and then gets upset by Jefferson or Robinson the next, please inform coach Tom Watson immediately. The WIldcats have been as inconsistent as any team around the region this year. But they are very good and play fantastic defense. Expect a close game in the high thirties tonight, low forties tops. Battlefield and Centreville seem very evenly matched.
As do Madison and Lake Braddock, although like the Bobcats the Warhawks will also benefit from playing at home in the first game of a playoff doubleheader. Both teams (as well as Centreville, who the Warhawks beat) played in the Bulldog Bash but didn’t face each other. The Warhawks don’t have a star, with sharp-shooting Katy Sharon leading the attack at around eight a game. But Madison has a lot of good players and plays good defense and crashes the boards well. Plus senior point guard Morgan Simpson is one of the most sound floor generals around.
Lake Braddock likes to slow it down play in the thirties and forties. The Bruins probably gave T.C. Williams its sternest test in conference play and are very capable. Senior Kathryn Esper can score in bunches, and sophomore Alaina Park has the potential to alter a game. The Bruins need to attack the Warhawks’ interior tonight and try to get to the line and Madison’s bigs in foul trouble.
Both these games are complete toss-ups, but somebody will play well and grab a berth at states. This pod will be fun and hotly-contested.
Pod #4: McLean at West Potomac; Patriot at Herndon
We can’t stress how huge it was for Herndon to win the Concorde tournament. McLean, West Potomac and Patriot are very solid, well-coached teams but the Hornets’ road to states is far easier going through them than it is Langley or T.C. Williams.
Herndon is probably the favorite to win regionals simply because they have the clearest road to the finals. Oh, and because they’re really, really good. It isn’t just junior guards Devyne Newman and American signee Indeya Sanders, either. Those two combine for almost 30 a game, but Janiece Loney doesn’t get enough credit for her outside shooting ability and junior Taylor Strawser is an extremely competent rebounder and post (low and high) player.
Herndon defeated Patriot on December 21st, 57-49. In that game five Hornets scored in double figures but what gives you pause is that Pioneers leading scorer Autumn Hopson didn’t play. Patriot has the talent to keep the game close. In addition to Hopson the Pioneers have capable players in forward Ava Pell and guard Amanda Nhek. But expect the Hornets to be far better prepared for the Pioneers this time around with a lot more on the line. Patriot will have to get to the line a ton like they did back in December to have a puncher’s chance for the upset.
McLean and West Potomac are two good teams. McLean started slowly before turning things on late to grab the #2 seed in the Liberty Conference. Of the three teams in the pod not from Herndon the Highlanders might have the best chance at an upset run deep into the tourney. That’s simply because McLean can get ultra-hot shooting the three. They’re led in scoring by freshman Elizabeth Dufrane, who has an absolutely gorgeous shooting stroke. Senior guard Vanessa Barlow can shoot as well, and senior forward Hannah Smith is key balancing things out on offense and rebounding-wise.
It’s far from a given McLean will even survive West Potomac, however. We appreciate the Wolverines as one of the few teams that can hit you inside and out. Dynamic guard Ty Taylor handles the ball and attacks the paint while guard Grace Moery provides more scoring in the backcourt. But the Wolverines are also big up front with Natalie Terwilliger and Haleigh Hopper. They possess the ability to get McLean in serious foul trouble down low. West Potomac also will have the advantage of playing at home in the first game of a doubleheader.
While it is unlikely anyone stops Herndon on its road to the finals, it would be a serious mistake to under-estimate the talent on this side of the bracket as well.