Herndon guards Will Ferguson and Dorian Johnson might be the best one-two punch in the Northern Region. Averaging nearly 40 points per game between them, the Hornets’ intimidating duo has throttled opponents in the scoring column while also racking up plenty of assists, rebounds and blocks this season.
But they aren’t concerned with fluffy stats or individual accolades so much as helping their team achieve its full potential. With five losses under their belt so far this season, one of the most talented starting fives in the area recognizes that it still has yet to approach the high ceiling overhead.
“I’m all about winning,” Johnson said.“Whatever I can do for the team to get the win, I’ll do. Whether it’s being a leader or playing defense, just as long as we get the ‘W.’”
As the Concorde District tournament looms about two weeks away, the Hornets appear to be jelling at the right time of year. Heading into Wednesday night’s contest against Oakton, which occurred too late for press time, they had racked up five wins in their previous six outings. That left them with a record of 12-4, 4-2 Concorde, tied with Robinson for first place in the district with four games remaining in the regular season.
Herndon now enters a tough final stretch against the three teams nipping at its heels: Chantilly, Westfield and then Robinson in the season finale.
“The kids know that we have some talent,” said head coach Gary Hall, who coached Herndon from 1990-2007 before re-taking the helm this season. “And they know that I have some credibility because of the past. So a loss here or there didn’t make us fall apart or lose confidence because we know that basketball is a tournament sport. Our goal was never to go undefeated in the district. We’re all about trying to win a championship.”
To reach that goal, the Hornets will need to bank on the talent oozing from the dynamic backcourt tandem that has carried them to this point. Ferguson, the team’s 6-foot-2 point guard, has the kind of bounce and athleticism that make him a threat from any position on the floor. The senior leads the region in scoring with 20.9 points per game, and his awareness and moxie allow him to effectively distribute the ball when needed.
Standing at 6-foot-4, Johnson poses a nightmare matchup for opponents who must contend with his rare blend of size and skill on the perimeter. With springy leaping ability at his disposal, he can alter a big man’s shot on one end of the court and then shake past a guard on the other end. During a breezy 62-37 win against Centreville on Tuesday night, Johnson alternated between getting scrappy clean-up points inside and knocking down three out of four three-point attempts en route to a game-high 26 points.
By halftime of Tuesday’s game, the score sheet read Centreville 11, Ferguson/Johnson 21.
“They’re a good complement to each other,” Hall said. “Will can get in the lane and create shots. If I was a player I’d love to play with him because you’re going to get open jump shots. And Dorian, he’s as good as anyone as an inside-out threat in the region.”
The two began playing together in elementary school before teaming up at Herndon Middle. Playing alongside one another outside of school and in open gyms has forged a bond that can’t be broken on the court.
“He’s like my brother,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been friends since fourth and fifth grade, so the chemistry was already there when we came here.”
Ferguson is using his senior year to make himself a better leader for a team that must stay grounded in its quest to reach a region championship. He and Johnson need teammates like Ryan Griffin, Kent Auslander and Delontae Wingfield to display consistency if they hope to go deep into the postseason.
Touted as one of the top teams in the state coming into the season, Herndon has shown its vulnerability with its five losses. Those defeats have challenged them to display maximum intensity no matter who the opponent.
“I think that we thought coming into the season that we might just have blowout games,” Hall said. “We’ve sort of been battle tested. We’ve been humbled a little bit. We understand that on any given night we can get beat. That’s what was so great about some of our teams of the past was that we played at or near our potential every night, and that’s all you can ask for.”
If that attitude sticks the rest of the way, Herndon might be destined for playoff glory.
“I think most teams in the area have reached their potential,” Ferguson said. “But we’re not even close to reaching our potential yet.”