When Dunbar’s final, desperation three-pointer at the buzzer clanked off the front rim Friday night, most of Wilson’s players stormed the center of Dunbar’s court to celebrate their 55-53 win.
Wilson guard Tara Cousins, meanwhile, remained under the basket. The junior grabbed the ball, held it tight under her right arm and took a deep breath.
Cousins needed a moment to herself before joining the party. She had just scored a career-high 32 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers come back from a nine-point deficit in Northwest Washington. Behind Cousins’s heroics, the Tigers remained undefeated in D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association play with three games left in the regular season.
Cousins’s father, Chris, had seen this movie before.
“She has a knack for hitting big shots,” he said. “That’s been since middle school.”
Cousins missed the majority of last season after tearing her left meniscus in a December game. Chris Cousins is a physical therapist, so just about every day after school, she took Metro to her dad’s office to rehab. She was back on the court within eight months.
In the morning after games, Cousins goes to Bethesda Sport & Health, where she performs shooting drills with her dad and develops toughness by playing pickup against men.
After she sank a three-pointer from about five feet beyond the arc in the second quarter Friday, fans in the gym expressed amazement. Chris Cousins, sitting at the top of the bleachers, shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s part of her drills,” he said.
Dunbar (19-5, 10-1) held a nine-point advantage late in the third quarter, but Wilson (15-7, 11-0) rallied behind Cousins and took the lead with about three minutes left.
With 11.3 seconds remaining, Cousins hit a pair of free throws to push the margin to three. Dunbar guard Zyaire Hairston made a free throw, and the Crimson Tide retrieved the ball again after a missed layup. Dunbar beat Wilson’s full-court press on its final possession, but a three at the buzzer found only iron.
After early-season tests against some of the area’s top private schools, Wilson has dominated DCIAA foes.
“I’ve been preaching to our girls,” Wilson Coach Nadira Ricks said, “This would be a big week for us.”
On Tuesday, Wilson and Anacostia, the last undefeated teams in DCIAA play, will face off with the regular season title at stake. Wilson finished 12-13 and missed the D.C. State Athletic Association tournament last season, but Ricks said having Cousins healthy is a big difference for this year’s team.
Cousins, for her part, was planning to be ready for her 9 a.m. session with her father in Bethesda, knowing her work with the Tigers is not done.
“It’s not pressure,” Cousins said. “It’s a responsibility. I’m not scared.”