Girls varsity basketball defeat Langley in a tight game to win the District Championship

Highlanders are crowned Liberty District Champions after strong defensive showing

Head coach Jen Sobota finishes cutting down the net after the game.

A classic McLean-Langley rivalry was set for the girls’ basketball Liberty District championship. The game, which was initially meant to be held at the first-seeded Langley gym, was held at Yorktown due to power outage issues.

Without a home-court advantage, students from both schools traveled to an unusual spot to hold the district final. However, McLean’s student section was double the size of Langley’s, a sea of neon-dressed students bringing energy to the crowd that the Langley student section could not match.

To prepare for the big game, the Highlanders took time to focus on their weaknesses that resulted in a loss to Langley earlier in the season. The Saxons’ sophomore Anya Rahman utilized McLean’s poor rebounding in order to turn quick turnovers into easy lay-ups.

“We talked about just playing our game,” said Head Coach Jenny Sobota. “We’re gonna play our game, and not [allow] teams to try to change it and do what they need to do to beat us.”

Right from the tipoff, both teams engaged in fast play and tight defense. Though Langley forced turnovers that resulted in open layups, the Highlanders managed to pull a lead due to numerous jump shots and a three-pointer from sophomore Vilte Kacerauskaite. By the end of the quarter, the Highlanders were up 13-6 and forced the Saxons to adjust.

In the second quarter, it was evident that the Saxons were able to adapt to McLean’s quick play in the first. They came out strong, quickly closing the lead to 14-15 with two three-pointers within the first minute of the quarter. McLean managed to maintain the lead, ending 26-23 at the half.

McLean was particularly successful as they were able to rebound and recover, something that they seemed to struggle with at the beginning of the season. Sophomore Alyssa Evans set the single-season record for rebounds in a season against the Saxons.

The third quarter quickly turned into a scrap, a back-and-forth quarter that was clearly the tightest of them all. The Highlanders seemed more relaxed and confident than they were in the first half and worked as a well-oiled machine to make smart passes resulting in easy lay-ups. The Saxons primarily struggled with passing, attempting to throw numerous long passes that resulted in balls flying out of bounds to attempt to suffice for McLean’s oppressive defense. The end of the third quarter gave McLean a promising lead of 45-38.

Though the Highlanders had a seven point lead, the Saxons fought back in the fourth quarter. With two minutes left in the game, Langley managed to tighten McLean’s lead to 47-49, leaving the Highlanders visibly nervous and a forced time-out. Langley’s foul trouble came back to bite them, though; they played particularly aggressively in the second half, racking up fouls that put McLean in the bonus and gave senior Shushan Krikorian, Evans, and Kacerauskaite crucial free throws. The charity shots were too much to overcome, and the Highlanders walked away with a 58-47 victory.

Students immediately stormed the court to celebrate McLean’s district championship with numerous players in tears.

“ It felt surreal [to win the district title]since there was so much excitement around the game, especially [since it] was against our biggest rival,” said senior and Liberty District player of the year Kara Bremser.

McLean’s win was especially big for the team’s seniors, who fell short at every playoff final before this year.

“It’s amazing. These kids have worked very hard to get where they are,” Sobota said. “Kara and Shushan, this is their fourth time in a district championship and they’ve gotten second every single time until now. We got this for them.”
The Highlanders will face Centerville in the first round of regionals next week.

“We are going to prepare for Centerville by focusing on our defense and always playing intense,” Bremser said. “We have to stay focused and keep working hard in practice and games throughout regionals.”