In a battle for first place in the Dulles District, Loudoun Valley’s stellar defense helped the Vikings overcome a young but relentless Tuscarora squad for an 83-67 win.
The Lady Vikings were also sparked by a career night from freshman forward Louis Volker, who led the team with 31 points, six rebounds and five blocks. Senior forward and 4A All-State Girls Basketball Second Team Megan Stevenson also contributed 15 points, seven rebounds, and eight steals.
“We preach defense since I took over,” Loudoun Valley Head Coach Bill Reynolds said. “Scoring will take care of itself. As long as we play great defense and we stop them from scoring, our offense will take care of itself. Our best offense is our defense, our turnovers are our layups.”
Loudoun Valley got on the scoreboard first, as Stevenson grabbed a loose rebound and easily laid the ball in the basket. Senior Isabellah Middleton quickly responded by attacking the Vikings basket, and drawing a foul. Isabellah Middleton sank both free throws, tying the game at two.
After that the Lady Vikings and the Huskies traded baskets early in the first quarter. Isabellah Middleton accounted for the Huskies’ first six points, as the Vikings attempted to figure out a game plan to slow her scoring. Middleton still led the Huskies on the night with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Loudoun Valley eventually gained separation, thanks to its full-court press that forced multiple Tuscarora turnovers, including four steals from Stevenson in the first quarter. The Lady Vikings led Tuscarora 23-15 at the end of the quarter.
“We want to play defense first and come out hard and fast because that will create our offense,” Stevenson said.
With the combination of their full-court press and a 1-3-1 zone defense, Loudoun Valley was able to contain Tuscarora’s attack in the second quarter.
“We practice our press, we practice two or three defenses that we can throw at you – tonight happened to be the 1-3-1,” Coach Reynolds said. “They bought into the system, last year they had one defense: man. I come in and I’m throwing four, five defenses at them and it’s shaky at first, but now they like it.”
It seemed as if the Lady Vikings would begin to run away with the game early in the second quarter, but Isabellah Middleton, and her sister Grace Middleton, combined for 12 of the Huskies 16 points in the second quarter, to help keep them within reach. Despite multiple scoring surges from the Huskies, Loudoun Valley maintained a 48-31 lead at half.
The Huskies were able to calm their nerves during halftime, starting the third quarter on a 9-2 run. However, Volker was virtually un-guardable in the second half, and her hot hand slowed the Huskies momentum.
“Louis was awesome tonight,” Coach Reynolds said. “We took advantage of Louis being super hot. We put in an offense to isolate one girl, and we put that girl in that spot and it just so happened to be Louis tonight.”
The Lady Huskies relentlessly fought until the end of the game, and even cut Vikings lead to eight late in the fourth quarter. But Volker’s scoring surge of 20 points in the second half helped keep Loudoun Valley’s lead intact, and eventually seal the win.
The Lady Vikings lead the Dulles District with eight games left in the regular season, including another matchup against Tuscarora on Feb. 14. Coach Reynolds was proud of his team’s performance, but he hopes to clean up unnecessary fouls in the future.
“I know with our defense and our pressure, the way we play defense is a little helter-skelter so we’re going to give up fouls, but we can’t give up the fouls away from the basket,” Coach Reynolds said. “We need to execute and make sure we take advantage of the opportunities that we get.”
Loudoun Valley improves to 10-0 on the season, and 6-0 in district play. They haven’t lost a game since last year’s state championship.
“This is an incredible group of girls and I give them all the credit for these wins,” Coach Reynolds said. “It’s easy for me to yell and scream, and they deserve it. After last season, falling short, they deserve everything they get this year. They work their tails off, and to know that this was the hurdle that they needed to overcome and now they’re in the driver’s seat.”