Madison girls top McLean with dramatic finish in AAA Liberty District tournament final; Marshall wins boys’ title
By Preston Williams,
The team that played the season without its two leading scorers from a year ago turned out to be the team that Friday night scored the last basket in the Virginia AAA Liberty District season. Madison senior Megan LeDuc hit her second game-winning shot in as many nights to lead the Warhawks to a 48-46 win over McLean, giving them their fifth district title in six years.
The nightcap boys’ final, also at South Lakes, lacked that drama but yielded a historical result, a 60-45 win for Marshall over McLean that marked the first district title for the Statesmen, a team that won no Liberty games two years ago and just two last season.
The McLean girls, who swept Madison during the regular season, trailed by eight with four minutes left but tied the game at 46 with 17 seconds to play when senior forward Lisa Murphy drilled her first three-pointer of her high school career to cap her season-high 27-point night.
LeDuc pulled up along the right side 10 seconds later to bank in a shot, on the same end of the floor that she hit a game-winning running jumper from between midcourt and the top of the key to beat top seed South Lakes at the buzzer in the semifinals.
“It was open, and I like the right side better,” LeDuc said of the shot that won the district title. “I thought one of the big girls was going to come over and block my shot. I was concerned. But it worked out.”
“She’s quite the player,” said Madison Coach Kirsten Stone, who had a timeout left but chose not to use it. “You definitely want the ball in her hands at the end of a game. When you have a senior like Megan who can take charge. . . . If I had a younger team I probably would have called a timeout.”
“I don’t think there was a doubt we couldn’t get there,” Stone said.
McLean (18-7), vying for its first Liberty title, got off an off-balance two-point attempt at the other end after LeDuc had made her shot. The Highlanders had lost at least 28 of the past 29 games in the series prior to sweeping Madison this season.
Madison will enter the 16-team Northern Region tournament as the Liberty’s top seed. Regular season champion South Lakes earned the second. McLean will be the third seed and Fairfax the fourth. The region event begins Monday; the Liberty is paired with the Concorde District.
LeDuc was named tournament most valuable player. Her two highest-scoring games of the season were the 29 she scored against Stone Bridge in the quarterfinals and the 23 she scored against South Lakes in the semis. Madison freshman guard Aidan McWeeney tied her season high with 15 points in the championship.
In the boys’ game, Statesman senior guard Grant Leibow scored a season-high 24 points, 15 on three-pointers, including the four he hit in the first half. Leibow had made a modest 25 three-pointers during the regular season, 10 fewer than the team leader.
Leibow had the ball in his hands at the buzzer, lofting it toward the ceiling while the Marshall throng roared. It was for sure his only airball of the night. He was six of nine from the floor despite most of his shots coming from long range.
“It’s about as big as it gets here,” a grinning Leibow said after being the first Marshall player to snip the net. “In warmups I was feeling it, so I knew I had to come out shooting.”
Junior forward Towner Hale, another all-tournament choice, added nine points, six steals and six rebounds for Marshall (17-7), which had to rally from nine points down in the district semis to squeeze out an overtime win to reach the final, thanks to senior guard Connor Barrand’s season-high 18 points. Barrand also made the all-tourney team.
“The boys really put in the hard work, and this is the culmination of it,” said third-year Marshall Coach Dan Hale, whose team won its first seven games of the season and has won seven of its past eight games. “When you work hard like that you don’t always get these kind of rewards. But it’s nice when you get them.”
Senior center John Pascoe led McLean (12-12), the defending district champion, with 17 points and seven rebounds. He and senior guard Samer Abdelmoty (11 points) each made the all-tournament team. The Highlanders had beaten top seed Langley in the district semifinals. For the region tournament, Marshall will be the top seed, followed by Langley, McLean and Fairfax.