After three straight games in which the Oakton High girls basketball team's points totals declined to a season-low of 43, the Cougars knew they had to stop their slump to stand a chance of going deep into the Northern Region tournament.
The Cougars' offense returned to form Monday night with a 67-36 rout of Washington-Lee in the first round of the Northern Region tournament.
Whereas it took the Cougars the entire first half of Friday's Concorde District Championship game to tally 14 points, it took less than three minutes to net the same in Monday's game. Twelve of those 14 points came via 3-pointers, two from sophomore Torri Marquis and one from senior Katherine Coyer. The Cougars sank two more 3s before the end of the period, another from Marquis and one from junior Helen Roberts.
The Cougars took a 21-8 lead by the end of the first period and extended the lead to 34-16 by the end of the half.
"It wasn't necessarily the strategy to get a lot of three-pointers. The strategy was to move the ball around and look for every opportunity we had to get an open shot," Marquis said. "Everybody got an open shot, so I think we're out of our offensive slump."
Though Caroline Coyer — the Cougars' lead scorer who was averaging 14.5 points per game heading into Monday night — added just four points to the first half total, her offense exploded in the second half, scoring 16 more points for a total of 18, a tied game-high with the Generals' Emma Cooper. The Cougars' Elizabeth Manner also scored in the double-digits with 10 points.
"I tried to relax people by working on shooting, but I basically didn't talk about [the slump]," Coach Fred Priester said. "The last thing I said to them before tonight's game was that in the game against Chantilly we got a few quick baskets and then it just stopped, so let's get a few quick baskets and then just keep going."
Even through their offensive woes last week, the Cougars had been able to maintain an overpowering defense, which did not change Monday. They held the Generals in the single-digits through three periods, and had 16 steals, many of which turned into baskets on fastbreaks.
The Cougars will have home-court advantage in their matchup against T.C. Williams in the second round of the Northern Region Tournament at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"T.C. Williams will be tough. They're an aggressive team so we definitely have to come prepared to be pushed around. We just have to push them right back," Marquis said.
Priester acknowledged the game will put the most outside pressure on his team they've had all season, but he thinks they can handle it because of the high expectations they hold for themselves throughout the season, no matter the matchup.
"I feel better [about facing T.C. Williams than I did a week ago] and not just because of this game. I think we're coming out of our funk. I felt it at practice today," Priester said. "... They're a tough team, and we'll have to play our best to beat them, but I feel good about it."
Points: Caroline Coyer (18), Elizabeth Manner (10), Katherine Coyer (9), Torri Marquis (9), Helen Roberts (5), Meredith Burroughs (4), Karlie Cronin (4), Angela Sickels (4), Jazmine Carter (2), Kate Dawson (2)