In what can be described, without hyperbole, as one of the must unimaginable comebacks , Oakton erased a six point deficit in the final five seconds of regulation before beating Madison 61-60 in overtime Tuesday night.
Liz Manner scored a school record 44 points, but none were as important as the four point play she converted with 1.3 seconds left to shock the Warhawks. Seconds earlier, Jazmine Carter scored what seemed to be a meaningless basket to cut the Cougars' deficit to 51-47, but Manner intercepted the ensuing inbound pass, took one dribble and fired away, drawing a foul in the process. Manner could barely recollect how the play even transpired.
"I honestly wasn't thinking anything," Manner said, before wondering if she was even the one who made the takeaway.
Madison had held a steady lead throughout the whole game, ending the first, second and third quarters with five point cushions. It looked like it would be enough to negate Manner's historic effort.
"I can't say ever, to be honest," Manner said when asked if she could remember scoring 40 points at any level. The Stony Brook recruit added 20 rebounds, and drew numerous fouls to temper how aggressively the Warhawks could defend her.
Like any good teammate, Manner humbly attributed her success to the play of those around her, but added she's enjoyed stepping into more of a leadership role with the departure of Caroline and Katherine Coyer, first- and third-team All-Met selections a year ago, respectively, to Villanova.
"They have great vision, they can see me when they need to," Manner said of her teammates. "They make their shots so [opponents'] players have to stay out, which allows me to be open. Caroline and Katherine always worked hard all the time. I followed them, and this year it's me having to set the bar. It's been a big learning experience, and I'm still getting there."
The learning experience will continue as the Cougars travel for a holiday tournament between Christmas and the New Year. After an defeated run to the state title a year ago, head coach Fred Priester sees plenty of room for improvement.
"This team needs a lot of time to bond," Priester said. "They like each other fine, but they don't know each other enough to carry over to the basketball court. We're constantly trying to be an Oakton basketball team. We have certain definitions of what that is, and we're still falling a little short."
Megan LeDuc led the Warhawks with 20 points, Jana Tremba scored 13 and Aidan McWeeny added 11. Tremba gave Madison its largest lead of the night at 27-17 when she scored nine points on three out of four Warhawk possessions when she drew a foul on a layup and then hit a pair of three pointers.