Two seasons ago, the Robinson Rams spoiled the Oakton Cougars' chances of a perfect regular season, giving them their only Concorde District loss since 2008.
Ever since, the Cougars have been on edge when facing the Rams, who serve as a reminder that the Cougars are not unbeatable.
Though the Cougars ended up with a 54-45 victory Friday, they struggled to gain their typical healthy lead throughout the first half. The Cougars opened up the scoring after nearly two minutes of play with a shot from Katherine Coyer, whose seven points — along with a 3-pointer from Caroline Coyer and a layup from Elizabeth Manner — in the first period put the Cougars up 12-6.
Katherine Coyer's seventh point not only made her the 11th Cougar in school history to reach 1,000 career points, but put her twin sister Caroline atop the Virginia High School League's AAA career assists ranking.
But momentum from the sisters' achievements did not carry into the second period, as the Cougars went about four minutes before scoring while the Rams put up six to tie the game. Caroline Coyer broke the tie with her second of five 3-pointers in the game.
The Cougars entered halftime with a two-point lead at 20-18, their narrowest margin since being down by four against Georgetown Visitation in December and their lowest first half total of the season.
"We didn't really stick to our defensive plan to start. And on offense we weren't very disciplined," Katherine Coyer said. "So our biggest thing [after the half] was just to stay disciplined on both ends of the floor and do what we were told to do in practice.
Coach Fred Priester described the locker room during halftime as "fire and brimstone to try to amp up their emotional tenor," acknowledging the problem wasn't from lack of skill.
"The things we were mistaken on were mostly mental," Priester said. "We'll be looking at tape tomorrow to break down what's going on. ... We have situations where we're lacking a sense of urgency."
The Cougars got their offense back on track to start the third period to go on a 13-2 tear, but the Rams went on a 12-5 run of their own in the last four minutes to bring the score to 38-32 entering the fourth period.
The momentum stayed with the Rams to start the fourth to put them within two points of the Cougars. Katherine Coyer's eight points in the last five minutes of the game, along with four from Caroline Coyer and two from Kate Dawson, gave the Cougars a solid lead to end the game at 54-45.
The tight win comes just a few weeks after defeating the Rams by 20 points.
"I think we really learned that just because we beat a team by a lot of points the first time around, it's not a guarantee it will happen again," Katherine Coyer said. "We have a target on our backs, that's a known fact. Every single game, every team is going to come out with all they have and we can't take our reputation and assume we're going to win."
The Cougars enter their last week of regular season play undefeated, hosting Centreville for Senior Night on Tuesday and then traveling to Westfield for the final game.
Coyer Twins Hit Milestones on the Same Play
As Caroline Coyer passed the ball to her sister at the end of the first period, she hoped it would lead to Katherine's 1,000th career point.
She had no idea it also meant she would be posting her 532nd career assist to break the state's AAA record.
"We had talked before about how it would be cool if it happened, but I didn't realize until after the game when they announced that it happened in the same play," said Caroline, who has signed to play with Villanova University with her sister next year.
Caroline shrugs off her own accomplishment as "cool," but said her assists are more of a reflection of the strong players she has been lucky enough to call teammates.
"It's just as much their record as it is mine. They have to make the shot for me to get the assist," she said.
When asked about Katherine hitting her 1,000th career point, Caroline was much more effusive in her praise.
"I think it means more to me that she got her 1,000th point than when I got my 1,000th point," Caroline said. "I honestly think she has worked so much harder than anyone else, and she's been looked down upon by a lot of people who didn't think she had it in her. She pushed through and I knew she was going to get it."
Katherine showed similar modesty when asked about her own accomplishment, saying individual accolades are nice and something to be proud of, but her hard work goes toward reaching team goals.
"That's what makes our team so great. Nobody is selfish," Katherine said.
Though Katherine had no idea her sister's assist on her 1,000th point was also a record-breaker, she was not shocked Caroline saw the scoring opportunity.
"If you're open, she'll get you the ball. That's the thing that makes her so awesome and a great point guard, and I'm so proud of her that she got that record," Katherine said. "I can't even explain how proud I am of her."
Knowing Katherine has always been billed as the "defensive twin," Coach Fred Priester was happy to see Katherine's offensive skills take centerstage so everyone else would know how strong she is on that end of the court, as well.
"If you really look at it, she's been extremely consistent with her offense throughout her four years," Priester said. "They're great kids and they deserve all the accolades they're getting."