The Oakton boys' basketball team (7-1) advanced to the championship game of the 39th Mount Vernon holiday tournament as the Cougars beat the Majors 49-40 on Friday.
The game, however, did not start out that close. In fact, it looked as if the Cougars were going to run away from the host Majors (5-3) in yet another semifinal blowout.
Oakton scored the first eight points of the game and led 16-5 after the first quarter. The Cougars' lead extended to 25-9 at halftime and coach David Brooks’ team seemed like a stress-free 16 minutes away from punching their ticket to the title game.
On limiting coach John Wiley’s explosive offense, Brooks complimented the Majors saying, “they are explosive and Bryce Washington is a hell of a shooter. Therefore we had to pay close attention to him to limit their leading scorer [Washington],” which is the key to their offense.
Washington was held to eight points on the night. Senior guard Nikia Glover led the team with 10 points.
The home team was not going down without a fight though.
In the second half, the Majors nearly came all the way back. Defensively, they held Oakton to eight points in the third quarter and only trailed by 10 entering the fourth. The Majors scored 31 points in the second half; they were able to do so by again scoring easy buckets and then forcing turnovers in a full court press.
"We didn’t do a good job of keeping our composure," Brook said. "They pressed us and got so rattled that even when we beat [the press] we were still nervous in the front court and could not operate our offense.”
The Cougars relied on senior guard Robert Bacon in the fourth quarter. Bacon scored 10 points in the final period.
“Robert is a great player and everyone knows that we will ride him late in tough games,” Brooks said.
Bacon had a game high 19 points.
The championship game against Battlefield, another up-tempo, press-happy team, will provide another test for coach Brooks’ team before conference play.
Brooks said tournament games give his team “different tests to prepare for the physicality of Concorde District play. Last night we go up against the best coached team in a talented South County squad down nine in the fourth and we had to find a way to win. Tonight was a different type of game” where Oakton had to prevent the same from happening to them.
Oakton officially put this game out of reach with 31.6 seconds in regulation when a jump ball would have given the Majors possession down six, but a technical foul was called on senior Kwadwuo Diawuo, who added eight points for the Majors, for a thrown elbow.
Mount Vernon will play Evangel Christian School in the consolation third place game at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28.
The title game between Oakton and Battlefield is at 7 p.m.