Sometimes the perception outside the Oakton girls' basketball program is that the fourth-ranked Cougars are Jasmine Thomas and four other uniformed bodies penciled into the scorebook to round out the lineup. Hey, somebody has to at least take the ball out.
Thomas and company know that is an unfair assessment, and games like last night's 46-34 win over Lee in the Virginia AAA Northern Region quarterfinals help clear it up for everybody else.
Yes, the Duke-bound Thomas accumulated a team-high 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals, but sophomore Erin McGartland scored 10 points -- including some putbacks in traffic and a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter -- and senior forward Ashley Abed added nine points and seven rebounds. And for the second time in three games, Abed helped the Cougars (25-1) keep the opponent's top post player scoreless.
"It's an incredible credit to their character that they can be able to come out and work their butts off every day in practice and come out here and do the things that they do in games knowing that" perception exists, Oakton Coach Fred Priester said. "I mentioned to the kids, just because one person gets the attention, it doesn't matter. If we go do the things we're capable of doing, there will be attention enough for everybody and the people that know what's going on are the people in this locker room. We can't control what anybody else thinks."
Thomas, who this week became the second-leading scorer in Virginia girls' basketball history, would be the first to acknowledge that it is not a one-woman show.
"I don't know how people on the outside feel," she said. "All I know is that within ourselves, however far we go, it will be done as a team."
That was certainly the case defensively last night. Regular season Patriot District champion Lee (18-4) entered the game averaging 63.9 points per game and raced out to a 9-3 lead. But Oakton scored 13 unanswered points and never trailed again.
The Lancers went stretches without scoring and never mounted a serious late run. In fact, only three players scored, led by sophomore forward Kristine Mial (20 points) and junior guard Kashei Hopkins (12 points). Junior forward Jay Babineaux, averaging 14.9 points, did not score, but she had 10 rebounds.
Thomas had to work for her points -- she was 7 of 23 from the floor and 10 of 12 from the foul line -- but she had help.
Thomas "just makes the kids around her better, and that's what great players do," Lee Coach Rudy Coffield said. "I think [people] do underrate those kids around her. Jasmine can't play one-on-five."
No. 4 Oakton 46, Lee 34Happy-Lee Ever After:The Lancers recorded nine wins this season against teams that qualified for the region tournament, and they will return their top six scorers. "We have everybody back, so get ready," Coach Rudy Coffield said.
Up Next:Oakton advances to face Marshall at 8 p.m. Thursday in the region semifinals at the Patriot Center, the Cougars' second trip in three years. Oakton won the 2005 title.