A comeback win over the visiting Lake Braddock Bruins on Dec. 2 was a significant victory, twofold, for the Oakton Cougars.
First, the 44-43 non-district win kept Oakton undefeated at 8-0 so far in the girls high-school basketball team season. The Bruins (4-2) are probably the best team the Cougars have played to this point.
For longtime Oakton head coach Fred Priester, the win was No. 750 of his career. The victory makes him the second-winningest girls head basketball coach in Virginia High School League history, among those coaching public-school teams.
Priester passed Alan Cantrell, who had 749 wins coaching three different teams over many years. Priester trails current West Springfield coach Billy Gibson, who began the 2021-22 campaign with 803 career wins.
Preister earned his first 130 wins over 10 seasons as the head coach of the McLean High School girls team, where he is in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. The other 620 have come at Oakton, including a 31-0 state-championship season in 2012.
“That’s a lot of wins, but I’ve been lucky enough to coach a lot of good players over many years,” Priester said.
Former Madison High School head girls coach Pat Deegan had 643 victories as a VHSL coach entering this season, and 112 more when he coached the private-school Bishop O’Connell Knights, for a 755 total. Deegan is the current head coach of the Fairfax High School public girls team.
Priester, Deegan and Gibson have coached in the same region and against one another for years. Fairfax lost to Oakton and West Springfield in games earlier this season.
For the Oakton girls team, a key to its season so far has been stingy defense. The 43 points against Lake Braddock were the most the Cougars have allowed in a game this season. Oakton yields an average of 32.7 points an outing.
“We have been playing solid defense and focusing so much on defense,” Priester said.
The Cougars aren’t scoring a lot of offense, averaging 45.8 points per contest, but they are playing at a faster pace than last season and attempting more three-point shots.
“We are averaging more points than last season, and we are always talking a lot about good shot selection and good execution,” Priester said. “I’m not doing any looking ahead. Every game is a one-game season for us.”
In that one game against Lake Braddock, Oakton trailed 39-30 at the end of three periods, and was not shooting well,
The Cougars made a strong rally in the fourth, taking the lead for good at 44-43 with 40 seconds to play on a layup by Caitlin Crump off an inbounds pass. Lake Braddock had a couple of more possessions, one ended on a steal by Grace Hansen, then the game’s last when the Bruins missed an open 15-foot baseline jumper.
The lead only was the second of the game for Oakton, the other being at 2-0.
Crump was among Oakton’s top scorers, along with Sejal Singh and Sophia Zinsi. Crump, Singh, Zinsi, Hansen and Finley Tarr all had steals in the win and E.G. Burke made contributions.
Oakton’s next action will be three games in its holiday tournament, Dec. 28-30.