Con­nolly’s big night helps her team keep play­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - ALLMETSPORTS.COM - BY NICK EILERSON nick.eilerson@wash­post.com

VIR­GINIA 6A GIRLS’ BAS­KET­BALL SEMI­FI­NALS

Maddie Royle stomped her foot, un­leashed a frus­trated cry and drew a whis­tle that ap­peared to put Oakton’s chances of ad­vanc­ing to an elu­sive state championship in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy. With 5:40 left in the sec­ond quar­ter of Satur­day’s 6A state semi­fi­nal at Robin­son, Royle picked up a per­sonal foul and a tech­ni­cal.

The 6-foot-1 Amer­i­can com­mit headed to the bench with four fouls.

“My heart dropped a lit­tle bit,” Oakton for­ward De­laney Con­nolly said.

From that mo­ment on, Con­nolly did more than just pick up the slack for her ma­rooned team­mate. The 6-foot se­nior fin­ished with a sea­son-high 31 points on 11-for-13 shoot­ing, pro­pel­ling Oakton to a 52-41 vic­tory over Lan­g­ley. The Cougars (26-4) ad­vance to next Satur­day’s state fi­nal against Colo­nial Forge in Rich­mond.

Lan­g­ley went up by three points af­ter Royle’s fourth foul, but Oakton guard Mina Mori hit a run­ner at the buzzer to put her team up 19-18 at half­time, and Lan­g­ley never re­gained the lead.

Against a stingy Lan­g­ley team that en­tered Satur­day’s con­test giv­ing up just 32.1 points per game in this post­sea­son, the Cougars proved they could play equally sti­fling man-to-man de­fense. Oakton held its 6A North re­gion ri­val to 31.1 per­cent shoot­ing and lim­ited Jor­dyn Cal­laghan to two points in the fourth quar­ter.

It was a mea­sure of re­venge against a Lan­g­ley squad that elim­i­nated Oakton in last month’s re­gional semi­fi­nal and last year’s state semi­fi­nal. The Sax­ons (25-5) cruised to a 64-36 romp in the re­gional matchup, lim­it­ing Con­nolly to four points in the process.

The height­ened de­fen­sive in­ten­sity stemmed from three days of bru­tal prac­tices ear­lier this week. Know­ing his team could face Lan­g­ley again, Oakton Coach Fred Pri­ester ran his girls through 10-minute ses­sions of non­stop five-on-five drills that pri­or­i­tized de­fen­sive pres­sure above all else.

“It wasn’t ex­actly met with univer­sal ap­proval,” Pri­ester said. “But I didn’t ask for their ap­proval.”

Oakton fell at the state semi­fi­nal stage each of the last two years. The Cougars weren’t about to make it three in a row against their lo­cal ri­vals.

“It was per­sonal los­ing to them,” Royle said. “We just came back and said, ‘Tonight is our game.’ ”

COLO­NIAL FORGE 56, PA­TRIOT 37: The Pi­o­neers’ dream sea­son ended in a loss to the Ea­gles in the first semi­fi­nal at Robin­son.

Ea­gles se­nior Shakira Austin — a 6-foot-5 Mary­land com­mit — fin­ished with 23 points, 14 re­bounds and five blocks.

“She was just too much for us to han­dle tonight,” Pa­triot guard Amanda Nhek said.

Olivia Gaither added 11 points and 15 boards for Colo­nial Forge (24-6), which out­re­bounded the smaller Pi­o­neers by 19. Austin tal­lied 12 points in the first quar­ter, spark­ing a 19-0 run that buried Pa­triot early.

HIGH­LAND SPRINGS 80, EDI­SON 78 (2OT): In the 5A state semi­fi­nals in Hamp­ton, Edi­son’s nine-game win­ning streak was snapped with a dou­ble-over­time loss to High­land Springs. It was the same stage and op­po­nent where the Ea­gles’ sea­son ended last year.

Sopho­more guard Ca­role Miller racked up 36 points and 18 re­bounds in the los­ing ef­fort.

PETE MAROVICH FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Oakton’s Kai­lyn Fee (30) cel­e­brates with her team­mates af­ter the vic­tory over Lan­g­ley. The Sax­ons had beaten Oakton in re­gional play.

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