Entering the fourth quarter of yesterday's Virginia AAA Northern Region semifinal against West Springfield, Chantilly had plenty of cause for pessimism. The No. 3 Spartans had 46 straight wins against Northern Region opposition, a history of regional success and a 13-point lead. Chantilly, though, had Alena Koshansky, and that was enough to send the No. 17 Chargers sprinting into the state tournament with a 56-54 victory before 2,000 fans at Lake Braddock in Burke.
Koshansky poured in 14 points in a four-minute span of the final quarter, helping the Chargers (22-4) end the game on a 23-8 run. In tonight's Northern Region final, Chantilly will face Lake Braddock, which surprised Robinson with a 47-35 win in the second semifinal.
But yesterday's first game -- a rematch of last year's regional final, featuring the region's hottest teams -- clearly stole the show.
Koshansky started Chantilly's fourth-quarter rally with two quick three-pointers and an assist to Kim Carter, and then added two free throws and a deep jumper to pull her team within five. A basket by Kathryn Wooldridge, two more Koshansky free throws and a slashing layup from the All-Met guard gave Chantilly its first lead since the opening minutes. The 13-point deficit disappeared in a little more than four minutes.
The Chargers, who lead the Northern Region in free throw shooting, hit 9 of 12 in the fourth quarter, handing West Springfield (25-2) its first loss to a region team since the 2001 regional semifinals and ending the Spartans' 19-game winning streak.
"I really don't think [West Springfield's streaks] fazed us," said Koshansky, who finished with a game-high 26 points. "We just had to come back little by little, and we did."
Janielle Dodds had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks for West Springfield, which was without starting point guard Laura Haskins (sprained right ankle) for the third straight game.
"It was a big factor," said shooting guard Sara Carey-Prock, who filled in ably for Haskins but got fewer offensive opportunities as a result. "She's the glue that holds our team together."
In the final minute, the Spartans had two opportunities to tie or go ahead. The first time, Koshansky stole the ball on the perimeter; the second time, sophomore Claire Blevins blocked a shot under the basket.
"The fact that we've been in close games like this really paid off for us in the end," said Chantilly Coach John Kelly, whose team is 7-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer. "They got flustered in the last 30 seconds; we remained calm."
Chantilly has won 22 of 23 games since an 0-3 start.
In the second game, Lake Braddock took advantage of a complete starting lineup to seize control with a 16-2 first-quarter run. The Bruins (16-10) lost a regular season game to Robinson when center Abby Robertson was out with a broken left foot and Casey Quigley was suspended. They dropped a Patriot District semifinal to the Rams with point guard Katie Lindemuth sidelined by an ankle sprain. Those three scored all of Lake Braddock's 16 first-quarter points yesterday, and combined for 41 for the game.
"We were obviously going to feel more comfortable with our whole team," said junior Casey Quigley, who, like Robertson, had 16 points. "Robinson's a good team; we knew that was our run, and we were ready for them to go on theirs."
And the Rams (19-8) did, drawing within three early in the third quarter. But a three-pointer from Quigley put the Bruins back up by six, and they steadily pulled away. A Lake Braddock squad without any seniors hit 11 of 14 free throws in the final quarter to clinch the school's first regional final berth since 1989.
That year, it also won a state championship.