Cougars' Threes Aren't Quite Enough

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 14, 2009

RICHMOND, March 13 -- After Oakton Coach Fred Priester accepted the state runner-up trophy Friday here at Siegel Center, he dutifully handed it to senior forward Erin McGartland, the cornerstone of the previously unbeaten team's run to the Virginia AAA championship game.

It would have surprised no one if McGartland had squared up behind the three-point line and unleashed the hard-earned memento, because No. 4 Oakton was chucking shots -- and making them -- in a 71-61 title game loss to Princess Anne.

The Cougars nailed a state-record 14 three-pointers in 27 attempts, a feat more than tempered, however, by missing 29 of 32 two-point tries. That was in great part because of the lurking presence of 6-foot-3 Cavaliers sophomore center Elizabeth Williams, who was officially credited with only two blocks but might have racked up several mental blocks, given her seven-inch height advantage over Oakton's post players.

Priester said if the Cougars were going to go down, they were going to go down shooting, and that they did, with McGartland and senior guard Sasha Borojeni combining for nine of the long-range baskets and four other teammates also hitting from three-point range.

"I have never seen a team shoot like this in my life," said Princess Anne Coach Darnell Dozier, whose Cavaliers won their third state title in eight years.

Oakton, whose 29 three-pointers in three games also set a state tournament record, trailed by 10 with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third period but staged a furious rally to pull within one by the end of the quarter.

Borojeni buried her team's 12th three to briefly creep the Cougars into the lead with 5 minutes 15 seconds left, their first time in front since two minutes into the game. But Oakton missed 13 of its next 14 attempts, and Princess Anne made 10 of 12 free throws late.

Oakton (30-1) scored the most points Princess Anne had allowed all season, and despite the height disadvantage was outrebounded by only one.

"When you believe in yourself, you just take the shots, and you live by 'em and you die by 'em," said 15th-year coach Priester, whose team finished the season with 190 three-pointers. "It was the way we wanted to play."

Junior guard Samisha Powell scored a season-high 34 points for Princess Anne (31-1). Williams added 17 points and 10 rebounds. McGartland scored a team-high 18 points for Oakton, which lost to Hampton in the 2001 state final.

"The same thing happened out there that happened 30 times before this," said Priester, who called a timeout with two seconds left to emphasize to the Cougars what they had accomplished. "Five kids went out there, they played the five kids that were opposite them, and we stand by the results."

Princess Anne 71, No. 4 Oakton 61 Family's Bittersweet Season: Oakton senior quarterback Chris Coyer suffered a game-ending injury in his team's loss to Oscar Smith in the state semifinals, and his twin sisters, freshmen Caroline and Katherine, were key cogs on the girls' basketball team that finished as state runner-up. Finality: A Northern Region team has lost 11 of the past 16 state championships, including three to another school from the region. No region team has won the title since West Springfield in 1999.

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