During her freshman year, Oakton’s Katherine Coyer reached the Virginia High School League’s Group AAA state championship game and got a taste of the finals atmosphere.
She and her teammates also had their title aspirations dashed by Princess Anne.
After that defeat, Katherine and her twin sister, Caroline, figured they would make it back to the finals, and that a state title eventually would be theirs.
“Three years ago when we did lose, it was like ‘Oh wow, we're definitely making it back here,’” Caroline said. “Coming back here year after year, you realize it’s not that easy.”
Three years and two more playoff disappointments later, Katherine, Caroline and the rest of the Oakton girls’ basketball team walked out of Richmond’s Siegel Cente as champions.
And with a perfect 31-0 record no less.
On Friday, the Cougars avenged the earlier loss to Princess Anne, 58-39.
Although the twins said it’s not easy to win at the state level, the Cougars made it look that way at times during the finals.
Oakton’s defense shined in the first quarter, as the Cougars leaped out to an early 10-3 lead powered by Elizabeth Manner, Karlie Cronin and Katherine.
In the first quarter alone, Manner hauled in seven rebounds, and the Cougars defense kept Princess Anne’s shooters in check (2-for-14).
“We were really pumped [in the first] and we brought everything to the table and played as hard as we could,” Manner said. “We went after it. We didn’t leave anything on the court.”
Oakton’s strong start carried into the second, when Katherine scored her ninth point of the game. Despite an 11-point deficit early in the second, Princess Anne — last year’s state champs — began to claw back. Princess Anne’s Galaisha Goodhope finished the first half 12 points.
Oakton clung to a 24-21 lead when the third quarter began, and came out fast with a 6-0 run. Manner started the scoring and again her defensive presence helped Oakton control play.
The Cougars also managed to shutdown Goodhope, who went scoreless in the third.
“We knew she was quick,” Oakton coach Fred Priester said. “We just started crowding the paint and [said] somebody else has to beat us. … We were squeezing her into the lane. Every time she spun, we were there.”
The Cougars defense was steady in the fourth, as Oakton used an 11-2 run to push the lead to 50-34 with three minutes to play. As the Cavaliers began to foul, the Cougars’ fans launched into a “This is our year chant.”
“I was crying tears of joy going into the locker room,” Caroline said. “This win is for us, it’s for coach Priester and part of it is for Oakton and all the players who have strived to win that state championship and came close.”
The title is Oakton’s first girls’ basketball title in school history.
Katherine finished with a game-leading 22 points, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Caroline finished with nine.
“It’s all about helping the team,” Katherine said. “Someone has to step up and I was lucky enough that it was me.”
Oakton also entered the state record books as only the third team to reach 31 wins in a season. Princess Anne accomplished the feat in 2009; Indian River did it in 2003.
“We never had that goal [to win 31 games],” Priester said. “Our goal was to play at or above our potential.”