When winning becomes so engrained into a basketball program, a team can overcome the toughest of obstacles in a matter of moments.
That was the case Friday night when undefeated Madison met arch-rival Oakton in the Concorde District girls basketball tournament title game at Centreville. The Warhawks overcame one of their worst shooting nights in two years and rallied from their biggest second-half deficit of the season for a 49-41 win.
The Warhawks entered having won 41 of their past 42 games, including five in a row against their neighborhood foe, which itself has a long history of winning big games. The Cougars, whose only two regular-season district losses were to Madison, played with considerable poise and focus for much of the game. Meanwhile the Warhawks — the region’s highest scoring offense — missed 11 of its first 12 three-pointers and all four of its free throws in the first half.
But trailing by eight midway through the third quarter, Concorde Player of the Year Tedi Makrigiorgos hit two three-pointers sandwiched around a three-point play by by Mia Chapman to give Madison its first lead of the game, 27-26.
The Cougars recovered to regain the lead, but Makrigiorgos (team-high 18 points) canned another three with two seconds left in the quarter to tie the game. The Warhawks (24-0) never trailed in the fourth quarter.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t come out and play together like we’ve done in the past three months,” Makrigiorgos said of the team’s sluggish start. “At halftime, we looked at each other and told ourselves, ‘This is not who we are.’ [Even with our long winning streak], we never take an opponent for granted. We beat Oakton by 20 earlier this season, but we knew Oakton would come back strong. They always do when they play us. We came out hyped in the third quarter.”
Sophomore center Chapman was Madison’s steadiest player in the first half, scoring five of her 10 overall points. After the Cougars (18-6) dominated the inside to grab an early seven-point lead, thanks to Kara Vietmeyer (nine of her 11 points came in the first 10 minutes), the 6-foot-1 Chapman restored order for her team at both ends of the court.
“That’s the biggest game Mia has played all season,” senior guard Makrigiorgos said. “She took the ball hard to the hole, and she got some of Oakton’s inside players into foul trouble.”
Chapman said her confidence has been growing throughout the season. “I look to go to the basket, and when I don’t worry about having my shots blocked, I do a lot better.” And on her team’s slow start, “We were over-thinking things a bit too much in the first half. But we figured it out,” she said.
The Warhawks’ only loss over the past 40 games was to T.C. Williams in the first round of the state tournament last season. Coach Kirsten Stone said she hasn’t had to do too much to keep her players’ egos in check.
“I credit our players’ parents,” Stone said. “They raised these girls well. They work hard, and their love of the game really shows. They’re just enjoying the chance to go out and play every day. All this winning [at this level] is relatively new to them.”
Madison will host Herndon in the 6D Regional Tournament on Tuesday. Oakton will travel to McLean.
Game notes: Madison hit just 4 of 25 three-pointers; Hannah Kaloi led Oakton with 17 points; Oakton entered the game tied for the second-best scoring defense in the Northern Region, and it has given the Warhawks their two closest games, six and eight points; Madison and Dulles District champ Loudoun Valley (20-0) are the region’s only remaining undefeated teams. LVHS won its district tournament on Friday, topping Tuscarora, 63-57.