Cougars limit Austin, but Colonial Forge an­swers

COLONIAL FORGE 52, OAKTON 38

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

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.”

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Oakton’s Kai­lyn Fee at­tempts to get past Mary­land com­mit Shakira Austin on her way to the bas­ket.

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