RICHMOND — Few squads go into a game against the Cosby girls’ basketball team without feeling a little bit of trepidation. A trip to Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center has become an annual rite of passage for the two-time defending Virginia 6A champions, whose two ACC commits lend them an aura of invincibility on the court.
Langley, on the other hand, had never qualified for the state tournament before this year. The Saxons don’t boast any players taller than 6 feet, let alone any future Division I standouts.
But when Wednesday’s 6A final got going, one thing was clear: the Saxons could hang with the Titans.
Langley’s signature scrappiness filed away at Cosby’s nerves all evening, its man-to-man defense often prodding the frustrated Titans into shouting matches among themselves. In the end, though, Cosby capitalized off some key offensive miscues down the stretch to hold off the Saxons, 42-37, and capture their third straight title.
“We knew that we’re a strong team and that we’ve gotten this far,” said Langley senior Lizzy Shamloo, who finished with a team-high 12 points. “We earned this spot that we were in, so it’s not like someone gave it to us.”
The Saxons left their mark, too.
“That was probably the most physical game we’ve had this season,” said Cosby senior Jocelyn Jones, a North Carolina-bound shooting guard who scored a game-high 18 points.
Langley forwards gained confidence in Tuesday’s semifinals when they held Oakton’s Delaney Connolly and Maddie Royle to a combined 16 points. But Langley senior center Stephanie Sipple and company viewed those two more as big guards who could pound inside. Tyra Whitehead, a 6-foot-3 Wake Forest commit, presented a different challenge altogether.
“She’s a big, aggressive player,” Sipple said. “Our game plan was basically to front her the entire time, and she never made that easy on me.”
The Saxons (25-6) stuck to their man-to-man scheme and limited Whitehead to 12 points with constant pressure and double teams. But it was the other D-I commit for Cosby (22-5) that got the better of them. Jones stole a Langley pass with 13 seconds remaining, got fouled on the ensuing fast break and sank both free throws to put the game out of reach.
Still, the Saxons looked back proudly on a season that saw them rise from potential district title challengers to state championship contenders.
“I go back to five years ago when we just wanted to be .500 and I was saying, ‘All right, let’s get this program on track,’ ” Langley Coach Amanda Baker said. “This never really crossed my mind, but once we played Edison [on Dec. 3] and saw how well we played, that’s when the vision got a little bit bigger.”