Apparently someone forgot to tell the Robinson and Oakton girls basketball teams that December nondistrict games are not supposed to be that important.

In a matchup of Northern Virginia powers, the top-ranked Rams held off the No. 5 Cougars, 62-56, in a game that had a playoff atmosphere from the opening tip.

If this was a possible Northern Region final preview, it could bode well for Robinson (5-0). The Rams, Virginia AAA runners-up last season to West Springfield, asserted themselves down the stretch behind senior Katie Jarvis (14 points) and junior Lauren Smith (12 points) and seemed to beat Oakton (5-1) to every key rebound.

"We were challenged by a team that can beat us, and they didn't," Robinson Coach Dwight Trimmer said. "Down the stretch, we needed to make some plays, and we did."

Robinson improved to 5-0. Oakton was led by juniors Megan Scott (a game-high 24 points) and Amaka Agugua (eight points).

"We wanted to prove to everybody that we are just as good as Robinson," said Scott, who played most of the fourth quarter limping because of a slightly sprained ankle. "I knew it was going to be close."

Oakton, which trailed 33-26 at halftime, pulled to 51-49 with 5 minutes 40 seconds remaining. But Robinson responded with an 8-0 run that Oakton was unable to answer.

With the Cougars forced to foul in the final minute, the Rams struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 3 of 9. But Robinson senior forward Nikia Roper (nine points) grabbed four crucial rebounds in the waning moments to seal the victory.

"Those rebounds were huge," Jarvis said. "We knew if if we got to those rebounds, we could hold the ball and run out the clock."

Oakton Coach Fred Priester said: "There were a lot of times we got it close. But we lost our focus. This game says that there is more than one good team in Northern Virginia. This gives us something to work on. If we see them again, that means we had a pretty good season."

Trimmer, who said earlier in the season that "we're almost too good," said last night that he has yet to see his team play its absolute best.

"We moving along more slowly than I had expected," Trimmer said. "We're all finding out that it's a lot harder being the front runner rather than the dark horse. When you are expected to win--and win big--on a nightly basis, there is a lot of pressure on you. We're still learning to deal with that pressure."