by Bill Turner
Hidden Valley head coach Troy Wells had the perfect game plan drawn out. Slow down the explosive Potomac Falls offense and keep the game in the 50s.
Everything played out as planned in the VHSL Group AA Division 4 state championship game Saturday night at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond until Potomac Falls reserve Pete Simoneau hit the shot of his life in the final seconds to give the Pathers their second consecutive title with the 58-55 win.
The shocked Hidden Valley squad, looking to force overtime, could only watch in disbelief, then openly weep after the buzzer sounded.
Hidden Valley knew they had a tough battle on their hands in Potomac Falls, which entered the game 29-1. But, the Titans battled like warriors throughout and Potomac Falls could not deliver the knockout punch early on.
The Titans led 14-13 in the first quarter before Potomac Falls scored the last six points in the opening frame for a 19-14 lead. The Titans fell behind 27-17 midway through the second quarter, then cut the Panther advantage to four, 29-25. Again, Potomac Falls rallied late with a 5-1 run to go to the break up 34-26.
The teams battled to a 9-9 stalemate in the third quarter with Hidden Valley getting no closer than six.
But, the Titans continued to stay within striking distance throughout the early stages of the final quarter and, when junior guard Daniel Rowe buried a long jumper from behind the arc with 3:15 to go, Hidden Valley seemed primed to pull off the upset.
Senior Taylor Walker finally got Hidden Valley over the hump with a 3-pointer from behind the arc followed by a shot off a baseline drive that fell through for a 52-51 Titan lead. Two subsequent possessions by Potomac Falls each ended with a pair of free throws and a 55-52 Panther lead in the last 30 seconds.
Hidden Valley brought the ball upcourt and hit Walker deep in the right corner for a jumper that found nothing but net and tied the score at 55. After a Titan time-out, the Panthers ran a play to the left side, and as the clock ticked down, Simoneau launched a bomb in front of the Potomac Falls bench. The shot went in like a laser and the buzzer sounded before Hidden Valley could get off any final attempt. It was Simoneau’s only field goal of the game.
Hidden Valley (20-8) was led in scoring by Walker’s 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Carter Wright added 16 for the Titans, while Austin Beecher and Daniel Rowe chipped in 11 and 8 respectively.