Cougars limit Austin, but Colonial Forge answers
COLONIAL FORGE 52, OAKTON 38
richmond — Heading into Saturday’s Virginia 6A girls’ state final, Oakton directed its attention toward one Colonial Forge player above the rest: Shakira Austin, a 6-foot-5 Maryland commit who had run roughshod over the Eagles’ overmatched postseason opponents.
Camille Downs needed only 11 seconds to exploit Oakton’s fixation on interior defense. The Colonial Forge guard buried an uncontested three-pointer from the left wing, then stole a pass and zipped in for a layup 30 seconds later. The Eagles were off to the races.
“She’s an exceptional player,” Oakton Coach Fred Priester said of Downs. “And she made us pay early.”
Downs scored all 14 of her team’s first-quarter points, setting the tone for a Colonial Forge team that could not be slowed during its wire-to-wire, 52-38 victory at VCU’s Siegel Center.
Downs (21 points) tallied only five points in the second half, but the Eagles’ relentless full-court pressure proved too much for an Oakton squad that thrived all season on offensive execution in the half court.
“We came out ready to roll,” Colonial Forge Coach Lashaun Cook said. “This is by far the best team I’ve ever coached.”
The Cougars appeared deflated when they faced a 10-point deficit midway through the second quarter, but Oakton senior Maddie Royle drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the margin to 25-20 and give her team renewed hope at the halftime break. Austin had only three points, and Oakton (26-5) was outrebounding Colonial Forge 18-12.
Even after the game, Priester couldn’t help looking at the stat sheet and finding reasons for encouragement.
“If you told me we were going to give up 52 points to them, I’d say, ‘Okay,’ ” Priester said. “We just didn’t hit the shots that we needed to hit.”
Colonial Forge never backed away from its pressure defense on the perimeter, hounding Oakton’s guards and forcing them into offbalanced shots. The Cougars made only 13 of 50 attempts from the field.
The Eagles (25-6) thwarted Oakton’s passing lanes and prevented dribble penetration all afternoon. The disciplined Cougars never settled into their usual rhythm on offense, finishing with nine assists and 14 turnovers.
Two free throws from Oakton senior Delaney Connolly (17 points) cut the Cougars’ deficit to 31-24 with 4:54 left in the third quarter. Oakton didn’t get any closer, going the next four minutes without a bucket as Colonial Forge grew its lead.
Even after delivering Stafford County’s first state girls’ basketball championship, Colonial Forge players couldn’t help reflecting on what felt like a routine outing.
“This was like a regular win,” Downs said. “It hasn’t really hit me, honestly.”
Oakton took solace in its first state title appearance since 2012. The Cougars fell in the state semifinals the previous two years.
“I’m proud that we got over that semifinal hump,” Connolly said. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t pull it out and get a ring to show where we’ve come, but we’re going to look back and not have many regrets about the end of this season.”
Oakton’s Kailyn Fee attempts to get past Maryland commit Shakira Austin on her way to the basket.