The Mount Vernon girls basketball team was starting to shake loose from a pesky McLean team when Elizabeth Owusuwaa let fly with a 3-point attempt from in front of the Majors’ bench, holding her hand in the air as the ball sailed toward the bucket. Directly behind her, Mount Vernon head coach Courtney Coffer stood on the sideline with his hand raised, willing the ball into the net.
Owusuwaa’s 3-pointer gave Mount Vernon a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter. McLean made one final run, pulling within six, but the Majors held on for a 69-57 victory on Feb. 21 during the opening round of the Northern Region tournament at Mount Vernon High School. The Majors accomplished their goal of winning a regional game and advanced to the quarterfinals to face T.C. Williams.
Owusuwaa’s "a really good shooter," Coffer said. "Even when she misses, it looks good. I’m always animated on the sidelines. Not too long ago, I was a player in college, so I coach like I’m playing. Every now and then I may throw the hand up because, for me, it lets the girls know that I’m here with them. At the end of the day, we’re all in this thing together."
The region victory, which improved Mount Vernon’s record to 21-4, came three days after the Majors defeated Edison 57-54 to win the National District championship. While Mount Vernon is experiencing success in the present, the team’s future figures to be even brighter. The Majors are an athletic and aggressive team without a senior on the roster.
"The sky’s the limit," Coffer said. "These girls, they work so hard. Right now, their mindset is they’re taking it game by game. But because they’re so young, I know they’re looking ahead and that’s why I’m always trying to pull them back to reality like, ‘Look, we’ve got to take this one game at a time.’ But it speaks well for the future. I think the future here for girls basketball at Mount Vernon is very bright."
On Monday, five Majors scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Taylor Dunham’s 17 points. Sophomore guard Kelly Loftus scored 16 points, sophomore guard Tiffany Webster finished with 11 and freshman forward Samantha Porter and junior guard Owusuwaa each added 10. The Majors roster includes two juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen.
Mount Vernon led 18-7 after the first quarter, but McLean battled back, outscoring the Majors 17-10 in the second period to pull within four at halftime. The Highlanders eventually cut the deficit to two during the third quarter, but couldn’t get over the hump.
While the Majors are talented, Coffer said the team’s youth can show in times of adversity.
"I just told them to calm down," Coffer said of his instructions while McLean was chipping away at the Mount Vernon lead. "I have a young team and when things start going the opposite way, the first thing they do is they hang their heads, they start pouting, so I had to call a couple timeouts."
Porter kept her cool throughout the second quarter. While McLean narrowed its deficit, Porter kept the Highlanders from taking control of the game. The freshman attacked the rim and scored eight of the team’s 10 points in the quarter, including a nifty reverse layup.
"She has a really unique skill set — and she’s a freshman," Coffer said. "This girl is really, really going to be good. She’s just starting to scratch the surface. There were times when McLean really made some huge runs and it was her buckets that kind of negated those shots."
Porter attributed the team’s strong on-court chemistry to getting along off the hardwood.
"At the beginning of the year, we were kind of apart," Porter said, "but lately we’ve been doing stuff together and getting to know each other more. … I think we’re extremely confident. We’re really, really excited to get this far."
Regardless of how far Mount Vernon advances, the 2010-11 season has been full of accomplishment — something that figures to continue for several years.
"I feel like in the future we’ll be really strong," Loftus said. "We’re so young, everybody underestimates us. We just have to prove everyone wrong and keep going further."