Just like every other opponent of the powerhouse Oakton High girls’ basketball team this season, the Chantilly High squad realized it had a huge task in playing the unbeaten Cougars earlier this week in Concorde District action.
Chantilly gave visiting Oakton a good showing but lost, 55-35, in the contest played this past Tuesday night. Oakton, the Northern Region champions in two of the past three years, improved to 19-0 overall and 7-0 in the district. Chantilly, with the loss, left the floor with an 11-8 overall mark and a 3-4 record in district play.
“That will be a tough one,” said Chantilly head coach Valerie Allen, prior to her team’s outing against Oakton. “They’re in first place and we’re in third right now.”
While Chantilly was not able to pull off an upset against Oakton, the Chargers, throughout the season, have proven they are capable of playing competitively with most of their opponents. In some regards, the outing versus the Cougars might have even been a confidence-booster of sorts for a Chargers’ squad which, in their prior meeting against Oakton on Jan. 10, had lost by an overwhelming score of 70-33.
But not every Chantilly opponent is Oakton or defending Northern Region champion West Springfield (which defeated Chantilly 57-41 in early December). Throughout most of its schedule, the Chargers have played some terrific basketball and have their winning record to show for it.
“We’ve been good most of the year eliminating turnovers,” said Coach Allen. “We like to push the ball [in transition] but when we have to we’ll pull the ball out and work for a shot on offense.”
Chantilly is not a particularly high scoring team, averaging about 48 points per game. But the Chargers do a good job protecting the ball and getting the most of their possessions while playing good, solid team defense.
That is a good formula for postseason success. Only a few more weeks remain in the regular season before the Chargers will be competing at the Concorde District Tournament. They could realistically be anywhere from a No three to a No. 5 seed. Oakton and Robinson (5-1 in the district) currently are positioned to finish first and second, respectively, in the standings. Ultimately, Chantilly, whatever its district seeding, will be aiming for a first round district tournament victory which would advance them to the semifinals while also assuring them of a place in the following week’s 16-team region tournament field.
“Our first goal is to win a first round district game and get into the region tournament,” said Allen.
Other key goals for Chantilly this season have included finishing first or second in the district standings, which it appears the Chargers’ will not quite attain, and to ultimately get as far as the region tournament semifinals.
“They work hard all the time,” said Allen, of her team’s determination to play hard in both practices and games. “The district we’re in is not easy. There is never an easy night and you can’t take a game off. The kids have the right attitude.”
PRIOR TO THE LOSS to Oakton, Chantilly was coming off a week against local district rivals in which the Chargers loss at Centreville High, 38-28, last Tuesday, Jan. 24 before winning at Westfield High, 43-24, last Friday night.
Chantilly came out red hot in the win over Westfield, jumping out to a 14-2 lead after one quarter and carrying a 26-9 lead into halftime. The Chargers then outscored the Bulldogs (11-8 overall, 2-5 district) 17-15 in the second half to win.
Chantilly junior center Allison Rowe (13 points) and senior guard Carmen Watson (11) were the Chargers’ top scorers in the win. Also for the Chargers, senior guard Katrina Hutzell scored seven points, senior forward Lauren Mashinski six, and senior guard Lauren Yates four. For Westfield, standout junior center Jules Abruzzo was limited to six points, as was front court player Missy Ziegler. Chantilly, in the win, put the clamps down defensively.
“We tried to work hard to take Westfield out of their rhythm on offense,” said Allen, who was specifically impressed with her team’s weak side defensive output (away from the ball). “We limited Jules’ touches. Offensively, I think we executed much better than we had in recent games. We swung the ball around well and limited our turnovers. We were able, fortunately, to put the ball in the basket better than we were in the Centreville game. Westfield is a good team and they’re well coached.”
Three days earlier, in the loss to Centreville, the Chargers were held down to just 28 points in the 10-point defeat. The game was deadlocked at 18 at halftime before the home team Wildcats (10-8, 2-5) doubled Chantilly up in the second half, 20-10.
Hutzell was Chantilly’s leading scorer in the loss with eight points, while Mashinski and Watson both contributed five points. For Centreville, Chaney Forbush scored a game-high 13 points while Caroline Wakefield and Ashley Brusick scored nine and seven points, respectively.
“We were getting shots, but just weren’t getting the ball in the basket,” said Allen. “We were shooting poor. Kudos to Centreville, they did a good job defending us. [Defensively] we held them to 38 points, which is good.”
CHANTILLY HAS RECEIVED good production both inside and outside the paint. Rowe, the team’s 6-foot-2 inch center, is averaging 16 points a game to lead the Chargers. Meanwhile, up top, Hutzell, a point guard and a third year Chantilly starter who, back in early November, accepted a scholarship offer to play collegiately at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), is running the offense well and averaging eight points a contest. She scored a team-high 10 points in the loss to Oakton.
Hutzell missed several games early in the season as the result of an ankle sprain in a 36-32 Chantilly win over visiting Langley. But she worked hard to come back and is in top form once again.
“Katrina is a gym rat,” said coach Allen, of the 5-10 backcourt playmaker. “She really puts herself in position [to succeed] and works hard every day. She just loves the game.”
Allen said Hutzell is the first Chantilly player in 10 years to receive a scholarship offer from an NCAA Div. 1 program.
“She’s really excited,” said Allen, of Hutzell’s enthusiasm to play at UMBC.
Fellow backcourt player, Watson, plays at a shooting guard slot for Chantilly. When Hutzell missed games due to her injury in December, Watson filled in for her at point guard. The second year starter is an outstanding defender, according to her coach.
“She’s played a huge role for us defensively,” said Allen, of Watson. “She plays hard on both sides of the ball.”
Another solid backcourt player for the Chargers is Yates, whom coach Allen calls “The nails and glue of the team.”
“She can defend and she can score whenever it’s needed,” said Allen, who said Yates makes plays – scoring, defensively, or on the boards – when most needed. “She can do whatever’s needed. She’ll just step up.”
The versatile Yates, a third year varsity player, has even played inside at the post at times when the Chargers have needed her there.
The team’s fifth starter is Mashinski, a 5-9 forward who was a part time starter last year. Mashinski, a focused, hard-working player, is tenacious inside with her defensive prowess and strong rebounding.
This Friday night, Feb. 3, Chantilly will travel to Herndon High for a district game. Next Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Chargers will play at Robinson. The team’s next home game is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 against Centreville.