After snipping loose the final strand of the net dangling from the basket following the Virginia 6A North region boys’ basketball title game, Battlefield Coach Randall Bills blindly tossed the token over his head and into the circle of players smiling on the court below him. Just before the net hit the ground, one of the Bobcats snagged it in his right hand and then spun it above his head for one more celebratory yell.
The sequence capped an on-target performance for the Bobcats, whose clutch free throw shooting helped them knock off No. 5 Westfield, 77-72, at Robinson in Fairfax and grasp their season-long aim — to win their first region championship.
“The first time we played Westfield [on December 21], they spanked us,” said Bobcats senior Blake Pagon, who finished with 17 points.
“We were still learning a lot about ourselves, with the biggest thing being that we had to be we-first and not me-first.”
That newfound approach surfaced during critical moments of what proved to be a back-and-forth affair. Even with high-scoring senior Tyler Scanlon powering his way to 32 points to keep Westfield (23-3) in contention, the Bobcats always seemed to have an answer, matching the Bulldogs’ preferred up-tempo pace with pinpoint passing to create scoring opportunities.
Most of those points came at the foul line. Led by Collin Parker, the Bobcats (21-6) hit 12 of their final 14 free throw attempts to maintain a comfortable cushion in the final two minutes. Westfield, on the other hand, only made four of its eight attempts from the line during that stretch, stifling its chances at pulling together a late comeback for the second night in a row.
“Part of who I am is being confident,” said Parker, who had 18 points. “When I step to the line, I believe I’m going to make it. And our team played with that confidence, too, to beat a team that had embarrassed us before and become champs.”
“I thought to myself, ‘This is not good,’ ” Oakton Coach Fred Priester said. “When you shoot threes like that early, you can’t keep it up.”
For more than 10 minutes in the second and third quarters, Priester watched his fears become reality as Oakton went scoreless until Delaney Connolly sparked the Cougars with the simplest of shots — she made a layup.
Suddenly, Oakton’s previously hot hand resurfaced, triggering a fourth-quarter run that propelled the No. 3 Cougars to a 46-36 win against No. 7 Fairfax and a second straight region title.
Connolly’s bucket and the 10-3 run that followed was a marked contrast from the rest of the second half, when the Cougars’ futile attempts to match Fairfax’s accelerated pace led to turnovers and an offensive drought.
After junior forward Maddie Royle went to the bench with her fourth foul early in the third quarter, the Rebels (27-2) made their move, with Karah Murphree and Noe’ll Taylor outscoring Oakton 7-0 in the period.
“In the huddle, we talked about getting the ball inside more because we had gotten away from that,” said Oakton junior Kailyn Fee, who had 10 points. “That got us back under control.”
With Royle back on the floor to start the fourth period, Oakton (27-0) again could space the floor, injecting life into its lethal inside-outside attack while drumming up the decisive fourth-quarter flurry.
In one of the day’s earlier consolation games, the West Springfield boys defeated Conference 7 rival West Potomac, 63-60, avenging last week’s loss in the conference final. Meanwhile, in the girls’ third-place game, Langley downed Herndon, 48-43.
All eight teams in action Saturday advance to next weekend’s 6A state quarterfinal round.