2023.02.21 Boys Basketball: VHSL Region 4C Semifinal, Loudoun County @ Handley

Winchester, VA (February 21, 2023) - When you get to the four-team Region 4C tournament, you can throw regular season records out the window. Winners in the semifinal round are guaranteed a spot in the state tournament, so there is a ton to play for even if your team is not the top seed. That was the case when the third-seeded Loudoun County Captains visited the second-seeded, and winners of the Northwestern District, Handley Judges.

Chas Sumser Photography was there to capture the action and emotion and posted a gallery of images from the game.

With Emerson Fusco off to a hot start, Handley built a quick lead, 6-1, before County really got started. But with 1:40 left in the first quarter, Jack West scored and then stole the Judges' inbound pass for another two points to give the Captains their first lead of the game, 11-10. Braxton Griffin sank an acrobatic shot to stretch the lead to 16-11 as the period ended. Trailing for most of the quarter, the visitors headed into the second period with 9-1 flourish.

Running a simple and highly productive offense, County continued to find back-door openings and extended the margin to 20-11 before Handley got going again. Jaevon Brisco hit consecutive long-range jumpers for the Judges, to make it 20-18, before the Captains surged again. Behind West, however, Loudoun County closed out the half with a solid 28-20 lead.

Brisco hit another three to open the third quarter, and Emerson hit one of his own to close the gap to a single point with the Captains still leading, 33-32. And Kyren Oglesby powered the next Handley surge to get the lead back for the Judges. Heading into the final quarter, leading 39-35, Handley had the momentum they needed to qualify for the region championship game.

Two "old fashioned" three pointers--one from Griffin and one from Joey Fitzpatrick--put the Captains back in front early in the fourth period, 43-42, but it would be the last time they would lead. Now under intense defensive pressure from the Judges, County could no longer find the interior openings for baskets that had come easily in the first half, and they were not hitting consistently from outside. 

Complimenting their defensive advantage, Fusco and Oglesby made it count for Handley and built the lead for the home team to 58-49 with under two minutes remaining in the game. The Captains then started fouling the Judges, forcing them to the foul line, but that strategy only cut the margin to four points at best. Handley was good enough at the line to keep the Captains from getting any closer, and a gorgeous underhand layin by Oglesby--with less than a minute to play--ignited the victory celebration.

Final Score: Handley 69 - Loudoun County 60 

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