Madison used proficient outside shooting in the first half and converted determined and successful drives to the basket in the second half to wear down McLean, 64-49, at home in the Region 6D girls basketball semifinals on Thursday.
Perhaps more impressively was how the Warhawks (26-0) played “defense” while possessing the ball in the second half. It was a keep-away game that featured their three experienced backcourt players.
In the third quarter, the strategy, used just beyond the three-point line, pulled the Highlanders out of their 1-3-1 zone defense, and later, it mostly prevented McLean from fouling in the game’s final five minutes when McLean needed to as it tried to stay within striking range.
The win — Madison’s 44th in its past 45 games — puts it into Friday’s final against Marshall (21-6), which halted South Lakes’ 17-game win streak in the other semifinal Thursday night with a 57-46 decision.
The Warhawks topped the Statesmen, 64-43, in mid-December in a non-district contest. Madison led the entire game that night and had four players score in double figures.
Both Madison and Marshall earned berths in the upcoming Class 6 state tournament. The Warhawks last lost in the first round of the 2019 state tournament, falling to T.C. Williams in the first round.
In Thursday’s semifinal, Madison assigned a rotation of several defenders to match up with McLean senior guard Elizabeth Dufrane, the region’s player of the year, asking each to play tight man-to-man defense and face guard her. Dufrane had scored 28 points (six three-pointers) in a blowout loss to the Warhawks in December, and entered the semifinal averaging 19 points per game. Dufrane, unofficially, finished with 22 points on Thursday. She hit her first four shots and scored her team’s first seven points before going scoreless in the second quarter.
“We knew she’d get her points, so our goal was to just slow her down and make McLean get its points from the others,” Madison guard Amalia Makrigiorgos said of the plan for the crafty and versatile Dufrane, who finished with three triples.
Dufrane said she’s been facing swarming defense the entire season. “Teams try different ways to deny me from touching the ball. I’m used to it,” she said. “We tried as hard as we could. We tired some at the end. Madison is a great team with a great coach and a great bench. I didn’t want my season to come to an end, but there’s no shame in losing to a team I respect, like Madison.”
Thursday’s game featured the two highest scoring teams in Fairfax County. The Highlanders (17-10) stayed even with Madison in the first quarter, however Makrigiorgos (team-high 18 points) and Samantha Glowasky hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the first half to give their team a 28-20 lead. Those were two of seven three-pointers the Warhawks hit to build a six-point halftime edge. Sisters Tedi and Amalia Makrigiorgos each had three.
“We expected a 1-3-1 zone defense from them and we got it,” Madison sophomore guard Grace Arnolie said. “We looked for mismatches and tried to find gaps and shoot through them.”
Highlanders’ junior center Kendall Jones helped to rally her team in the second half. She finished with 14 points and four three-pointers. Her triple with 6:07 left in the game pulled McLean to within 46-44. Madison, however, closed out the game with an 18-5 run, including hitting its last eight free throws and converting on drives to the basket.
“We’re a naturally good-shooting team,” Arnolie said. “We work on shooting on the move and shooting when we’re tired, especially at the foul line. That definitely helped us [tonight]. We see McLean as a local rival team and our players really thrive in those kind of situations. We love the pressure that comes with playing in them.”
The spread offense late in games is something Makrigiorgos says her team doesn’t work on much. “Our guards dribble well and we trust each other. We get the spacing [and make it work],” she said.
Madison on Thursday was without key reserve center sophomore Mia Chapman, who injured her knee on Tuesday in the team’s first-round win over Herndon. Chapman, using crutches, said the best-case scenario for her, based on her receiving an MRI on Friday, is to be back in action in one to two weeks. She averaged six points per game off the bench over the past nine games.