The Washington Post
An unstoppable force, Warhawks clinch four-peat
MADISON 49, MANCHESTER 46 (OT)
RICHMOND — Madison, equal parts the powerhouse that had won the past three state titles and the long shot that had graduated eight seniors, entered Siegel Center in the daunting position of having to make history after a trio of history-making seasons.
Junior Stella Gougoufkas ensured the Warhawks would do just that.
With seconds remaining in overtime, Gougoufkas caught the ball on the right block, drew contact on her right arm, kissed the ball off the glass and delivered an and-one layup that blew the lid off the arena and etched Madison in the all-time dynasty discussion with its fourth straight state championship, a 49-46 overtime victory over Manchester on Friday evening.
“It’s just exciting,” said Gougoufkas, who was mobbed at game’s end. “This game was — let’s not say unexpected, but we worked really hard to get here.”
Throughout the season, coaches from around the area warned that Madison (25-4) was still the bar to clear in Northern Virginia. Quickly, it proved to be more than coach-speak.
The Warhawks’ backbone was the same as that of years’ past. The team hopscotched through a tough Concorde District slate. It scheduled top private schools and learned from the losses.
Sure, it entered last year’s state title game outscoring opponents by an average of 26.7 points, whereas that figure had shrunk to 10.4 this year. But that was no matter. Wins were wins, and they kept coming.
The Warhawks leaned even further into the muck-it-up style that first brought them success, adopting defensive principles as sermon, exploiting Virginia’s lack of a shot clock to always find the perfect shot and, occasionally, stall out an opponent if the game script called for it.
“We went in on day one, thinking . . . [we could] take the steps to get back to the same place,” Coach Kirsten Stone said.
If the Warhawks could stick to their formula in Richmond, they figured, they would have no trouble. And if any trepidation existed, it faded in the first few minutes. The Warhawks were in sync on their backdoor cuts and defensive rotations, as had become the expectation for the Vienna program.
Though the Lancers (22-6) trailed early, they inched their way back to a 21-19 deficit at half. After briefly relinquishing the lead, Madison regained a onepoint advantage entering the final frame on a last-second three from senior Sarah Link.
At the start of the fourth, Manchester played its best ball, taking a seven-point lead with four minutes left. With a minute left — on a Gougoufkas layup and a sign of things to come — they were tied again, this time until the end of regulation.
In a low-scoring overtime, the script favored the team with final possession. That was Madison. And with one final shot and a brief end-of-game-stand, it completed the four-peat.
“That [last play] was definitely not planned,” said Madison senior Kayla Dixon, who led all scorers with 20 points and delivered the final assist. “Really glad it went the way that it did.”