Are we really here already? After a football season that seems to go forever, the swiftness of high school basketball’s regular season always seems to catch me by surprise. It seems like just last week that I was watching Herndon cruise past Woodson on the road and thinking to myself that the Hornets would be hard for anyone to overcome this year.
Like many others, I had a hunch that Herndon would be in a great position to go after its first state title in program history this year. What I didn’t foresee was how much scarier the Hornets would look in February than in November. Not only have Gary Hall’s boys breezed to double-digit wins in eight of their last 10 games, they’ve also added a high-caliber transfer to their roster just in time for postseason play. That makes five players on the team currently averaging double-figure scoring. Yikes.
Here’s an outlook on some of the teams to watch the rest of the way.
Herndon — Just when you thought Herndon couldn’t get any better, they added senior swingman Brandon Alston — a 6-foot-5 transfer from Life Center Academy (N.J.) — to a rotation already brimming with scorers. Alston dropped 14 in his debut Tuesday night, a 76-64 win over Oakton that also saw four other Herndon players reach double figures. The only thing standing in Herndon’s path toward the Division 6A state title is themselves. Will Alston’s presence create matchup nightmares for opponents, or will it throw off the chemistry the Hornets have worked to cultivate all season?
Lake Braddock — Spurred by their coach’s unrelenting refusal to accept a controversial mid-season loss to Annandale, the Bruins have been on a warpath these past four weeks. They’ve won nine of their past 10, including a pair of wins over defending region champion Woodson. The Bruins’ fine form bodes well heading into the postseason, as does a formidable frontcourt that few high school teams have the size to defend.
Wakefield — It appears the Division 5 region title will come down to two teams: Wakefield and Edison. No one else is close in Conference 13. Edison won the first meeting earlier this season, but Wakefield used a dominant second half to overpower the Eagles in their matchup Tuesday night. Senior big man Dominique Tham played inspired basketball in that one, racking up 23 points, 18 boards and four blocks. He aims to lead the Warriors a step further than last year, when they fell to John Marshall in the state semifinals.
Edison — With a litany of high-flying guards and a pair of private school transfers in the paint, Edison might be the most talented team in the area from top to bottom. They looked flawless in the early going Tuesday night, but weaknesses were exposed when they found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being behind on the scoreboard. If the Eagles can keep attacking the rim and stop settling for bad jump shots, look out.
Robinson — The Rams are a well-rounded, disciplined group capable of knocking off anybody, as seen in their wins over Herndon and Edison this season. They’ll do damage if they continue to work the ball around and stick to their selfless style of basketball. If they go cold from the field, though, the Rams’ lack of firepower could be exposed at any stage.
Woodson — Woodson is a hard team to read, as is often the case with young basketball teams carrying lots of talent. Eric Bowles and a cadre of streaky teammates are dangerous, but, aside from a win against Robinson, they haven’t proven much in terms of quality wins this season. Expect no one to overlook the defending region champions, though.
South Lakes — The Seahawks took a while to come together, but they’ve been playing their best basketball of the season with seven wins in their past eight outings. If standout junior Brandon Kamga stays hot, South Lakes can stay with anyone.
South County — The Stallions aren’t likely to go far, but they’re definitely capable of pulling an upset or two. A recent win over Woodson charged the Stallions with some momentum going into the postseason. Opponents need to be wary of the “mayhem” full-court press Travis Hess has grooved into his guys this season.
Edison — The Eagles are extremely deep this season, especially with the addition of two senior transfers who have contributed to the starting rotation. Reigning Northern Region Tournament MVP Jada Graves is playing her best basketball of the year, providing a matchup nightmare to opponents hoping to contain her deadly drives to the basket. Edison’s relentless full-court press will carry them far.
T.C. Williams — With 13 straight wins under their belt, the Titans are arguably the hottest team in the area right now. Senior guard Tykera Carter won’t let her team go down easily.
Madison — If there’s anyone playing as well as T.C. Williams these days, it’s the Madison Warhawks. Coach Kirsten Stone always seems to get her girls playing their best down the stretch, and this year is no exception. Led by Kelly Koshuta’s uncontainable presence in the paint, the Warhawks have cruised to nine straight victories, including wins over McLean and South Lakes.
West Springfield, McLean, Oakton, South Lakes, Centreville — While Edison is the clear favorite in Division 5, it’s really anybody’s game in Division 6 this year. These five squads all carry proven track records and are very evenly matched. Will it be South Lakes’ dominance in the paint? Centreville’s deep backcourt? Oakton’s well-oiled system? There’s no telling who will come out on top.