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Oakton Girls Re-Claim Northern Region Basketball Crown

Kathleen Coyer steps up to score 29 points in win over West Springfield.

The `Coyer Era’ of Oakton High girls’ basketball could not be winding down in more spectacular fashion than it currently is.

The Coyer twins, senior guards Caroline and Kathleen, have played vital roles in the Cougars’ unparalleled success over the past four years. Caroline, the team’s point guard, is one of the Northern Region’s all-time best players. Katherine, at shooting guard, is a tremendous defensive player who scores when called upon and can match the on-court prowess of the best players out there.

The duo, in both their freshmen and sophomore years, helped Oakton win region crowns. Last year, their junior seasons, saw the Cougars eliminated in the region semifinals to fellow region force West Springfield. It was Oakton’s one and only loss of the 2010-’11 season.

On Monday, Oakton and West Springfield met again in a huge postseason affair, this time in the region finals. Once again, Oakton entered the playoff contest with the Spartans unbeaten. This time, however, head coach Fred Priester’s team was able to overcome the Spartans to the tune of a 63-49 triumph which earned Oakton its third region crown in four years and improved its record to a still perfect 28-0. The finals game took place at Robinson Secondary.

“It’s definitely great to win, especially after last year’s [semifinals loss],” said Oakton center Elizabeth Manner. “We’ve continued to work hard all year.”

Manner said Oakton, much like last year when it lost just the one game, has never allowed the pressure of being unbeaten to overwhelm them.

“It hasn’t affected us,” she said. “Every team we play, we go out and know we can beat them. We’re not cocky but we’re very confident.”

In Oakton’s region tournament championships in 2009 and 2010, Caroline Coyer earned tourney MVP honors both years. On Monday, following the Cougars’ decisive victory, it was sister Kathleen who garnered MVP status during postgame award ceremonies. No one was happier for Kathleen, who tallied a game-high 29 points in the championship game win, than sister Caroline. Both are set to play college basketball on scholarship next year at Villanova University in Philadelphia.

“A lot of people in the past did not give her the respect she deserved,” said Caroline, of her sometimes unheralded twin and teammate. “We knew she had to have a great game tonight and she did.”

While Kathleen accepted her first-ever region tournament MVP honor, Caroline and fellow Cougar Karlie Cronin were also named to the seven-member All-Tournament Team.

Caroline said she has thoroughly enjoyed playing high school ball alongside her sister for four years at Oakton.

“It’s awesome,” said Caroline. “She knows me better than anyone. I can always count on her.”

THE ENTIRE OAKTON squad was able to count on Kathleen Coyer on Monday. She had a simply dominant game and helped the Cougars get off to a good start with eight first quarter points as Oakton took a 12-8 lead going into the second quarter. Oakton never lost the lead thereafter.

Oakton, which led 24-18 at halftime, saw West Springfield get within 25-20 when Spartans’ junior forward Lindsay Mares converted a 10-foot turnaround shot off the left wing early in the second quarter. But Kathleen Coyer responded with a 14-foot jumper to make it 27-20. The basket started a 15-7 Oakton surge over the remainder of the quarter, helping the Cougars take a 40-27 advantage into the fourth quarter.

One of Oakton’s biggest highlights during the third quarter hot spell was a three-point basket by Caroline Coyer from the left of the key which gave the Cougars a 32-20 lead nearly midway through the stanza. Coyer, Oakton’s top scorer this season and one of the greatest scorers in region history, was limited to just six points on the night but that long range trey to give her team a 12-point lead was one of the game’s biggest baskets. Oakton’s lead would ultimately reach 16 points on a couple of occasions thereafter.

West Springfield never relented and, behind the strong fourth quarter play of senior forward Logan Battle, fought back to within seven points at 51-44 on a pair of Battle free throws with two minutes, 53 seconds remaining. Throughout that final quarter, Battle, one of three Spartans to make the All-Tournament Team, had kept her team in contention by scoring on hard drives to the basket. Fourteen of her team-high 18 points came in that final quarter.

But Oakton weathered the Spartans’ fourth quarter threat. Following the free throws by Battle which got West Springfield within seven points, Oakton’s Manner, a fundamentally-sound, 6-foot-0 inch center who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, scored from close range while being fouled. Her ensuing free throw made the score 54-44 Cougars. Several moments later, Manner would answer a basket by Battle with a nifty, inside spin move layup off the left side to make it 56-46 with 2:12 left. West Springfield never closed within 10 points after that.

“I really think we all came out to play tonight,” said Manner. “We were patient and physically tough. We knew if West Springfield took something away [defensively] we could counter.”

Kathleen Coyer scored 12 of her points from the foul line, where she was 12-of-14. Her only long range three-pointer came from the left corner with just over a minute remaining in the game, prompting chants of `undefeated, undefeated’ from the charged-up Oakton student body section. Coyer had eight rebounds to go along with her big scoring night.

Manner, like everyone else, marveled at Kathleen Coyer’s huge night.

“She’s a great player,” said Manner. “She finishes her shots and can score when there is pressure on her.”

“She pretty much made everything she shot,” said West Springfield’s April Robinson (10 points), an all-tournament selection herself.

West Springfield, with the loss, fell to 26-3 on the season. The Spartans’ only prior two losses had come during the holidays to out-of-area opponents. West Springfield’s title game setback was its first loss of the season to a local opponent.

“They played a better game than we did,” said Robinson, a senior guard. “We came out kind of timid. We’ll rebound from this and come back at it on Friday.”

Both Oakton and West Springfield, by reaching the region title game, automatically earned trips to this week’s eight-team state AAA playoffs. Oakton, this Friday night at 7, will play Central Region runner-up Monacan High of Richmond at Robinson. Also on Friday at 7, West Springfield will travel to Richmond to play Highland Springs, the Central Region champion, at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center.