Northern District schools have traditionally dominated boys basketball in the Northern Region over the past decade, but Northern District teams also dominated one of their own in that period -- Oakton. Those days may be over.
This season, the Northern District has been just a mediocre link in what is generally considered an offyear for basketball in the region. Within the district itself, balance has been the rule, and Oakton, which has not won a league title since 1971, has rumbled in recent weeks like a team not to be overlooked in the Feb. 24-28 district tournament at Lake Braddock.
The Cougars, who last season were 1-21 in Coach Tom Casey's first year after moving over from Fort Hunt, had won four of their last six before Monday night's heartbreaking 72-70 loss to Robinson. They are 8-10 overall, 3-5 in the district, and in the recent run, registered back-to-back victories over Lake Braddock and West Springfield.
"This situation was not much different from the one I stepped into at Fort Hunt," said Casey. "They had been losing for a long time at both places. It took a little time for the players here to get used to me and believe in what I was trying to do. In some of the games we lost earlier this season, we were ahead or barely lost. Playing close is one thing; however, winning is another."
Casey has made good use of talented 6-foot junior Chris Turner, the state golf champion. Turner is averaging 14 points playing in the back court with 6-1 junior Pat Miller, who is averaging 12. Turner had 25 points in the 84-72 win over West Springfield.
Other significant contributors have been twin forwards Gerard and Mark Moise, seniors who transferred from Rhode Island.
Casey will not go overboard warning teams to watch for Oakton in the tournament, but he realizes this is a good season for a team to sneak into the regionals.
"Right now, we are like the Rodney Dangerfields of the area," Casey said, meaning Oakton still gets little respect. "But we are just happy to be where we are."
Stuart's Jeremy Worrell, coming off victories in five events in the Potomac District track meet two weeks ago and a victory in the triple jump in last weekend's Northern Region meet at George Mason, has visions of multiple wins in the Virginia AAA meet this weekend at George Mason.
Worrell won the triple jump (47-3 3/4), long jump (23-3 1/4), high jump (6-2), 55-meter hurdles (7.5 seconds) and 55-meter dash (6.4) in the district meet.
Raiders Coach Roy Ferri wanted Worrell to streamline his thinking to fewer events as the state meet approached, but Worrell, a 6-2, 190-pound senior who tripled jumped 46.4 in the region meet, has other notions.
"In last year's state meet, he tried too many things and it turned out to be a disaster," said Ferri. "I don't want that to happen again."
Worrell won the triple jump in last year's state indoor meet, but was a disappointing seventh in the high jump. He was second in the 55-meter hurdles.
This year, Ferri believes Worrell can win the long jump and hurdles, and fight Green Run's Matt Darby for the triple jump title.
"For any mortal, even that would be too much," said Ferri. "But he's the best athlete I've seen in my five years here. We'll see what he is made of."