Fairfax girls basketball coach Alice Pennix knew her team's game against defending AAA Liberty District champion Madison was not just about revenge. Although Pennix's Rebels lost handily twice last season to Madison, the coach felt her senior-laden team had a good chance to pass the Warhawks' test last night.
The Rebels passed, all right, outrebounding and outhustling No. 18 Madison en route to a 47-38 victory. The regular season district loss was Madison's first since 1989.
"We are a good team and I knew it from Day One," said senior guard Susan Otim, who led the Rebels (12-2, 4-1) with 16 points, including six straight in the fourth quarter that enabled Fairfax to pull away. "We knew it from the beginning of the season, but this just shows everyone else that we are a team to be reckoned with."
Madison (11-3, 4-1), which fields a smaller and younger team, held Fairfax and 6-foot-1 junior center Tiffany Young (12 points, nine rebounds) in check early in the game, but didn't have an answer for the Rebels late.
"We wanted it more," Otim said. "We got the boards and that's what won it for us."
That, and hot shooting in the fourth quarter.
After Otim hit three consecutive field goals to give Fairfax a 39-31 lead, Madison Coach Pat Deegan put two defenders on the ball and told his team to press. But senior guards Rejera Arnold (14 points) and Nicole Bradee hit back-to-back three-pointers with three minutes left to push the Rebels' lead to 14.
Madison made a late run to move within 45-38 with 32 seconds left, but Fairfax maintained its composure, which Pennix said was a sign of promise. In a Jan. 7 loss to district power Langley, the Rebels lost a late lead and the game, 39-37.
"The kids really needed this win to get over the top," Pennix said. "It does more mentally than anything else."
Deegan credited Fairfax's defense with confusing his team early and throwing the Warhawks off their game. Madison made bad passes and was forced into numerous turnovers early as the Rebels blocked passing lanes and forced difficult shots from the outside. Warhawks junior guard Tiara Cruse had a game-high 19 points, but had little help.
Fairfax's complete effort gave Pennix, in her third year as coach, reason to smile following the game.
"The seniors really stepped up this game after having their butts kicked for three years," Pennix said. "We have taken 30- to 40-point beatings in the past. Any time you can beat a team of this quality, it feels really good."