This season’s third straight state-tournament championship for the Madison Warhawks might have been the biggest charm of all.
The girls basketball team defeated the Osbourn Park Yellow Jackets, 38-29, March 11 in the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 state final at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
The state-tournament format was altered each of the past two seasons because of COVID, so the title games weren’t held as usual at the Siegel Center site on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, or in another college arena, as has been the case for decades.
So the tournament finally occurred in the normal and traditional manners.
The final wasn’t played at all in 2020, canceled on March 12 that year, with Madison and the Edison Eagles determined co-champion. Last season, Madison hosted the state final in its own gym with limited spectators permitted, when the Warhawks also defeated Osbourn Park.
“This was fun. It was the first time our players got the whole experience of playing a state final at VCU, and I think they handed it with class,” Madison coach Kirsten Stone said.
Madison senior guard Alayna Arnolie agreed.
“The full experience makes it all mean more,” she said.
Added Warhawks senior Kiera Kohler: “We have two [state championship] rings, but we had not yet played in this gym. Now it’s fun to have the full experience.”
With the win, Madison finished the season with a 27-2 record and 19 straight victories, including an 8-0 playoff mark. The Warhawks are now the first Northern Virginia team in the VHSL’s largest enrollment classification to win three straight state championships.
The state crown was the team’s fifth in program history.
Osbourn Park finished with a 26-2 record, and had its 21-game winning streak snapped. The Yellow Jackets’ other loss also was to Madison early in the regular season.
The state final was a low-scoring defensive struggle, with neither team shooting frequently or well. The 38 points were the fewest scored by a winning team in a VHSL Class 6 or Group AAA state final.
Madison was 15 of 38 from the floor and made only two three-pointers in 10 attempts. Osbourn Park was 11 of 40, and just 2 of 14 from threes. The 29 points were a single-game season low for the Yellow Jackets.
Madison trailed 5-2, took the lead for good at 6-5 on two foul shots from Mia Chapman (10 points, six rebounds and four blocks) and was ahead 8-5 at the end of the first quarter.
The Warhawks led 15-8 at halftime and 29-17 at the end of three periods.
With the Warhawks not shooting well from the outside, Chapman, Kohler (two points, six rebounds, three blocks), Sarah Link (eight points, four rebounds) and Avery Griepentrog (three points) picked up the slack and scored inside. Helping that cause were 10 first-half offensive rebounds for Madison.
“We have a lot of seniors and they know what changes we have to make,” Stone said.
“We stayed focused on team mentality, and that allowed us to stay in the game when we weren’t shooting well,” said Madison’s Grace Arnolie (11 points, seven rebounds, two steals).
Grace Arnolie made Madison’s two three pointers in the third period. Her sister Alayna Arnolie finished with two points, five rebounds and four steals.
Madison’s Katie Koshuta scored two points, had two rebounds and two assists and Kayla Dixon had a block.
Strong and smothering defense was a big key throughout the postseason for Madison. In eight playoff games, the Warhawks allowed an average of just 30.3 points per game, yielding a single-game high of only 34 points, with a low of 27 twice.
“Defense has been our No. 1 focus since the start of the season,” Alayna Arnolie said. “Tonight we wanted to pressure on defense, get rebounds and we knew our offense would come to us.”
Said Osbourn Park coach Chrissy Kelly: “What makes them so good is they play both ends of the floor very well, all five of their players can score and they have length on defense. They are just good, so we had to be better and we just weren’t.”
NOTES: The Arnolie sisters are Madison’s leading scorers, but they went scoreless in the first half of the state final, going a combined 0 of 8 shooting, missing four three-pointers. “That was not part of the plan,” Grace Arnolie said . . . Madison’s overall record in its three-straight state championship season is 71-4, including 15-0 in the postseason with seven straight wins in the state tourney . . . In addition to winning five state titles, Madison has finished second four times . . . Dating back to last season’s state final, Osbourn Park’s only three losses were against Madison.