Fairfax The Oakton girls’ basketball team trailed by nine points midway through the fourth quarter of its regional semifinal matchup with South Lakes on Feb. 21. Meanwhile, Oakton senior Elizabeth Manner, a first-team all-region selection, sat on the bench with her fractured left thumb in a cast, unable to help while the Cougars’ season was slipping away.
South Lakes had opened the final quarter on a 9-0 run. Oakton responded by showing the resiliency of a defending state champion.
Karlie Cronin scored the Cougars’ first bucket of the quarter with 3:52 remaining. Then, Lindsey Abed converted a three-point play, cutting South Lakes’ lead to four with 2:49 on the clock.
Oakton would have a chance to tie with less than 20 seconds remaining, but the Cougars’ quest for a second consecutive state title would fall short of reaching the state tournament.
Oakton lost to South Lakes 48-46 in the semifinals of the Northern Region tournament at Robinson Secondary School. Down by three, Abed made a two-point bucket with about five seconds remaining, cutting the Seahawks lead to one. South Lakes added a free throw with 3.2 seconds on the clock and the Cougars’ ensuing half-court heave was off the mark.
“It’s been a great year for us and it really shows the heart of this team.”
—Oakton senior Angela Sickels
Oakton led 28-24 midway through the third quarter despite the absence of 6-foot-1 center Manner, who fractured her left thumb against McLean in the opening round of regionals on Feb. 18, but the Cougars couldn’t hold on.
“We expect everybody to do their job and sometimes their job changes,” Oakton head coach Fred Priester said. “It changed the last couple games because Elizabeth wasn’t there. Everybody did what they had to do. It was a game where we played pretty well and they just played two free throws better.”
Oakton, which finished runner-up to Centreville in the Concorde District, ending a streak of eight consecutive district titles, defeated McLean 42-33 in its regional opener. The victory was costly, however, as the Cougars lost Manner to injury. Without their standout center, the Cougars defeated T.C. Williams 46-36 in the quarterfinals on Feb. 19, but fell short against South Lakes.
“As every athlete knows, it’s obviously hard [and] it sucks,” Manner said about watching from the bench as the Cougars lost to the Seahawks. “I’m extremely proud of them.”
Abed, a sophomore who was named to the all-tournament team, finished with 17 points against South Lakes. Freshman Alex Marquis scored 11 points, senior Angela Sickels and sophomore Cronin each had eight and senior Helen Roberts added two.
Oakton finished the season with a 22-5 record.
“It’s been a great year for us and it really shows the heart of this team,” Sickels said about Oakton competing without Manner. “ … [I’ll remember the] girls on the team, how much they helped me grow as a person and as a leader, and what I learned about teamwork and determination. I’m going to take that with me the rest of my life.”