We fully anticipated to be writing about Washington and Lee, not Langley, this Saturday morning.
After all, coming into Friday night’s Conference Six match-up the Generals were playing good ball, having won four straight games. The Langley Saxons, meanwhile, were dealing with illness in their ranks and had lost two in a row. Both teams hosted a solid Potomac Falls team last week–the Generals won by sixteen, the Saxons lost by two.
None of that seemed to matter to visiting Langley, who rode a balanced scoring attack and three quarters of outstanding defense to defeat Washington and Lee, 54-47. With talented guard Chas Battaglia unavailable due to sickness it was a somewhat surprising time for the Saxons to play some of their best basketball of the season, but that they did.
“We missed Chas hugely tonight,” Langley coach Scott Newman said after the game. “He’s one of our most important guys without a doubt. But, we made a couple changes tonight to the way we subbed and I thought the guys just did great.”
Defense was the name of the game early as the Saxons (1-1, 3-3) held the Generals to just sixteen first-half points. Washington and Lee had been averaging 74 points-plus a game before Friday, but it found open looks hard to come by against Langley. Two key cogs for W&L were limited in their effectiveness. Junior guard Chris Ozgo, who averages in double figures, did not score in the first half. Efficient starting center Colin MacCullough picked up some early fouls, and his impact throughout the game (six points, five rebounds) was limited.
Langley led 24-16 at the half, but the potent Generals offense got untracked at that point, especially from the three-point line. The Generals hit four three-pointers in the first three minutes of the third quarter, three of them from senior Will Wallace. The home crowd started to get noisy as Anthony Reyes fed Ozgo twice for three-pointers, the Generals even taking the lead on the first. But the Saxons kept their composure and survived the run, even regaining a 39-38 lead by the end of the third quarter.
“When they counter-punched in the third we responded with our own run,” Newman said. “We had some big threes and [played] some good defense. My goodness, junior Iain Muir, who is stepping into an expanded role for us, he was huge for us defensively tonight.”
He wasn’t half-bad offensively, either. Muir scored 12 points to lead the balanced Saxons attack. Junior guard Chase Beckett had ten points. Guard Colter Carton had nine. Senior center Sami El-Rafey had nine points and nine rebounds down low. In the fourth quarter and against a hostile home crowd nearly everyone on the floor hit key shots for the Saxons, usually from outside. And although the Saxon defense wasn’t what it was in the first half, the team came up with some key stops late.
The two teams, similar in that they both like to shoot threes and zone press after makes, almost fittingly each hit seventeen field goals total and eight threes on the night. While Washington and Lee did force more turnovers, the Generals only went to the free throw line six times while the Saxons went 21 times. That was the difference in the game.
The resilient Ozgo did finish with 17 and Wallace 14 for the Generals (1-1, 5-2), who are now idle until January. Langley will resume its challenging schedule next Wednesday, as the Saxons visit Battlefield. There’s now more optimism around Newman’s team, which lost two fantastic players off last year’s Conference Six regular season champion, but returned many others.
“We’ve played a tough schedule,” a tired but satisfied Newman said after the win. “I feel good about where our mojo is, we’re a little bit battle-tested and ready for league play. I think we needed that one to kind of, get over the hump. In the first games we felt a lot of pressure to re-create last year’s championship team, but I think now we’re starting to forge our own identity.”
box score is unofficial
|WASH. & LEE||FG||FT||TP||RB||AST|
|Threes: Wallace 4-9, Miller 2-4, Ozgo 2-6, Swingle 0-2|
|Threes: Carton 2-3, Beckett 2-3, Hughes 2-4, Muir 1-2, Goettman 1-5|