Mount Vernon had Tuesday’s game at Oakton circled on the calendar for nearly 10 months. Oakton, which captured the 2011-12 Virginia AAA state title, handed the Majors their only two losses last year.
The two teams last met in February's Northern Region tournament semifinal where Oakton defeated the Majors 55-38 en route to winning the school’s first state girls’ basketball title.
The Majors exacted their revenge on the Cougars on Tuesday night.
“They ended our season last year,” said Mount Vernon head coach Courtney Coffer shortly after his team’s 68-52 victory. “I’m just very, very proud of everybody. We played a great game. It’s kind of scary because I don’t even think we’re playing our best basketball yet.”
In an atmosphere that Coffer said rivaled that of a Northern Region tournament game, freshman Erika Irving (wing/forward) scored eight fourth-quarter points to help lift the Majors to victory and snap Oakton’s 34-game win streak.
Junior Chanel Shannon (guard) led the Majors in scoring with 26 points while senior Kelly Loftus (wing/forward) connected on all eight of her free-throw attempts to finish the game with 14 points.
Coffer said the large, vocal contingent of Mount Vernon fans also played a role in the team’s victory.
“Our fans tonight were incredible,” the coach said. “We had a lot of support and there were times in the game that you would have thought that we were playing at Mount Vernon. We had a lot of people there and the crowd just gave us energy and life.”
Mount Vernon opened its season on Nov. 27 with an 82-35 road victory over West Potomac. The Majors posted 25 wins last season and claimed the 2011-12 National District title. And with the loss of just two seniors, this year’s team appears to be just as explosive.
“We have all of our scorers back this year. They’re a year older and have gotten stronger,” Coffer said of this year’s squad. “They’re more mature mentally and we still have the same firepower that we had last season.”
This year’s Majors are led by Loftus and fellow seniors Tiffany Webster (wing/forward) and Taylor Dunham (guard). All three plan to play collegiately. Loftus signed a letter of intent last month with Hofstra University, Dunham has verbally comitted to the U.S. Naval Academy and Webster has verbally comitted to Barton College.
“They’re all going to be our leaders,” said Coffer of the trio. “All three of the young ladies have been on varsity for four years now and have been with me since they were freshmen.”
While the three seniors will provide veteran leadership, three freshmen will give Mount Vernon quality depth and versatility. Irving, Chanise Ray (guard) and Jasmine Collier (guard/wing) have already seen significant minutes two games into the season and Coffer expects them to play a large role in the team’s quest for a second consecutive National District title.
He also said the three remind him of three current Mount Vernon seniors he coached as freshmen.
“It’s just funny because they remind me of our three seniors so much,” Coffer said. “A lot of people always ask why I keep freshmen [on my roster] and not play them on the freshman or junior varsity team. To me, if you’re a young player and show that you can play at a higher level, you’re going to play. These three are going to play just like Tiffany, Taylor and Kelly did when they were freshmen. They’re not going to sit on the bench.”
Mount Vernon defeated teams from different parts of the state last season and showed that it could remain competitive in state tournament play if given the opportunity. But Oakton stood in the way. With Tuesday’s victory over the Cougars, the Majors’ road became a little easier.
“Every year, the goal has always been to win the region,” Coffer said. “The biggest goal we have, and it’s one that we haven’t been able to fulfill yet, is to go and represent the region in the state tournament. We'll feel that if we get to the state tournament, it’s anybody’s game.”