Herndon High boys’ basketball coach Chris Whelan, in his third season at the helm of the Hornets, has always stressed the importance of good overall team defense to his players. And Whelan’s squads, much like his predecessor before him, former Hornets’ head coach Gary Hall, seem to always excel at the defensive end of the floor.
That has continued to be the case
this season for Herndon. The Hornets’ defense appears to be getting better with each game. Last Friday night, in a 61-40 Concorde District home win over Westfield, Herndon’s `D’ was particularly effective.
The 40 points allowed matched the fewest given up in a game by Herndon this season. Earlier this winter, the Hornets defeated Lake Braddock, 68-40, in a road contest on Dec. 7.
“We are really starting to defend which is going to make us extremely tough to beat in February,” said Whelan, a former player at Herndon himself who learned all about the nuances of stellar defense from coach Hall. “Holding Westfield to 40 points was quite an accomplishment.”
Herndon senior guard Austin Hamilton scored a game-high 26 points to lead Herndon, which improved to 11-3 on the season. John Beltran (11 points), a senior guard, and senior Nick Delgato (10) were also in double figures, while freshman Dorian Johnson and junior Pat McLaughlin both chipped in seven points to boost the Hornets’ well balanced attack.
Only one Westfield player scored in double figures – Zach Elcano with 10 points. The Bulldogs, a much improved team this season, fell to 9-5 on the season.
Westfield led after one quarter 16-14. But thereafter, Herndon’s defense totally shut down the guests. Herndon outscored the Bulldogs 23-10 in the second quarter to take a 37-26 lead into the halftime. In the second half, Westfield tallied just six points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth – a total of just 14 points following the intermission. Herndon totaled 24 second half points to earn the decisive victory.
Herndon’s top scorer at this point in the season is Hamilton, averaging nearly 24 points per game. Beltran is next at close to 13 points per outing, followed by McLaughlin (9.2 points). Other scoring contributors this season have been senior forward Raleigh McKenzie and freshman DeAndre Thomas, both averaging around six per contest.
In another game last week, Herndon won a district game at Centreville, 76-50, on Wednesday. The Wildcats, following a winning season last year, are just 4-10 this season. Hamilton (22 points), Beltran (17) and Delgato (13) were all in double digit scoring for the Hornets, who outscored Centreville 23-11 in the first quarter to take early control. McLaughlin contributed eight points for the Hornets, who led 43-25 at halftime.
Herndon was scheduled to play district games this week against visiting Robinson on Tuesday, Jan. 18 and this Friday night, Jan. 21 at Chantilly High.
<b>OVER THE HOLIDAYS</b>, Herndon traveled to South Carolina to take part in the Bobcat Classic showcase. The Hornets delivered big time by winning all three of their tournament games, including a 73-62 finals win over Spring Hill High of Columbia, S.C.
In the championship game win, Beltran, Matt Stevens and Hamilton each nailed huge, long range three-pointers to help secure the late lead. Hamilton was named tourney MVP.
In Herndon’s first round tournament win, the Hornets rallied in the final minute to defeat Atlanta’s Forest Park High. Whelan’s team then defeated Ooltewah High (Tenn.), 58-51, in the semifinals. Beltran joined Hamilton on the all-tournament team.