Oakton senior Jackie Shewmaker stood at the free-throw line in the waning seconds of the Concorde District title game at Robinson Secondary School on Friday night. The Cougars held a slim one-point lead over Herndon. Standing at the line, Shewmaker came down with a bad case of déjà vu. One year prior, Shewmaker stood at the foul line in the Northern Region championship with time expired and the Cougars trailing Edison 60-59. The Cougar guard missed both shots.
Shewmaker had no such trouble against Herndon, draining both foul shots to put them up by three points and secure the Cougars’ fourth-consecutive Concorde District title, 53-52.
“Something is a little more balanced in the cosmos right now,” said Oakton head coach Fred Priester.
Shewmaker finished with 8 points on the night, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line.
“It was a little déjà vu but I’m glad I got the chance to do it,” she said.
The sixth-seeded Hornets, who fell to the Cougars twice during the regular season by an average of 12.5 points, pressured the Oakton offense from the first whistle and took a 15-9 lead into the second half.
“I knew that they were going to play really physical. They caused us some problems and managed to take us out of some of our sets,” said Priester. “We had to stay real vanilla. We couldn’t go deep into the playbook.”
The Cougars responded in the second, starting the quarter with a 9-2 run and ending with a 10-0 run to take a 31-23 lead into halftime.
“Oakton out-scrapped us a few times, but the thing is, we never quit. That is the most important thing,” said Herndon head coach Reggie Barnes.
The Hornets stayed with the Cougars throughout the second half, reclaiming the lead in the fourth quarter, 45-43, until Oakton junior forward Brianna Johnson took over. Johnson scored 8 of the Cougars’ final 10 points and had a key steal late to help seal the victory.
“We weren’t going to lose,” said Johnson. “Everybody contributed to the last second.”
While the victory gave Oakton its fourth-consecutive district title, the win was a little bit sweeter for the Oakton seniors. Playing for the first time without four-year starter and current Duke guard Jasmine Thomas, the Cougar seniors showed that the previous three weren’t a result of a one-woman show.
“Everybody was talking about if we could win this without Jasmine,” said Tournament MVP Mandy Johnston.
Added Priester: “These kids needed this to feel like they could do this on their own.”
The loss ended a Cinderella run in the tournament for the No. 6 Hornets, who upset No. 3 Westfield and No. 2 Centreville to advance to the final.
“The foundation was laid last year, getting to the [second round of districts],” said Barnes, in his second year as the Hornets head coach. “Our second year in the program and we got a little further. We are going to bounce back from this.”
<b>NOTE:</b> Both Herndon and Oakton lost in the first round of the Northern Region tournament in surprising upsets. The Concorde District, facing off against the Patriot, advanced only one team, Robinson, to the second round of the tournament.