Friday, March 14, 2014

CHAMPIONS: Cosby Outlasts Stonewall Jackson For State Crown, Unbeaten Season....

Finish the job.

Even if the work to that point hasn't been pretty, hasn't been what you've wanted or expected, finish the job.

The Cosby Titans did just that, and was richly rewarded with the first State Girls Basketball Championship in school history, defeating Stonewall Jackson (Manassas) 53-46 Friday night at the Siegel Center in Richmond. With the victory, the Titans finished their season unbeaten at 26-0.

Dorothy Adomako, in her final game at Cosby, persevered through a game which contained more shooting woes than personal runs, and led the Titans with 23 points and, maybe more importantly, 16 rebounds. The Titans, who only shot 32% for the game, and just 27% in the second half, won the battle of the boards over the Raiders decisively, 42-30. Of their 42 rebounds, 19 of them came offensively. Adomako had six on the offensive end.

"Even though my shots weren't falling, I just had to be a leader on the floor," Adomako said after the game. "I feel like if I start doubting just because my shots are not going on, my teammates are going to follow, so I just have to keep a positive attitude."

Adomako, headed to Georgetown in the fall, got her chance to help close the door and write the perfect ending to the perfect season, hitting the final two free throws of an 8-for-8 stretch at the line for Cosby in the final 44 seconds that turned a 45-41 game into a 53-46 final.

"It was one of those games where we came out a little slow. I felt like we were maybe a little starstruck," Cosby head coach Rachel Mead said. "This is the type of team that they don't give up and they kept playing hard and digging down deep, and it paid off."

Genesis Parker helped contribute to Cosby being "starstruck" early, hitting a trey to open the scoring 31 seconds in, and finishing the first quarter with nine points en route to a 17-12 Stonewall Jackson lead. The Titans shot 6-for-17 in the opening period. They repeated the feat in the second quarter, but clamped down on the defensive end.

The Raiders only took nine shots in the second quarter, and didn't score after a Rachel Burns three-pointer made it 24-18 Stonewall Jackson with 5:07 to the half. It was a 9-0 Cosby run from there, to take the lead at 27-24 to the locker room.

Cosby's worst quarter shooting came in the third, hitting just three of 15 shots, scoring 10 points. But, again, defense helped the Titans stay in the hunt, as the Raiders took just 11 shots, making only four. It was a two-point game with eight minutes to play.

That's when Adomako made her stand, even after starting the final period committing her fourth personal foul just 15 seconds in. Thirty seconds later, she blocked a shot. Forty seconds after that she makes a layup for a 38-34 lead, then, a steal, drawing an important foul on Stonewall Jackson's Rachel Burns, who committed four in the final quarter and fouled out with 44 seconds to play.

The game's final minutes are filled with her name in action, but she was not alone. Skye Jefferson, on her way to UNC-Greensboro, had two key steals and an early block. And future UNC commit Jocelyn Jones (she'll be back next year) made four straight from the line in the final three minutes.

But for all Cosby did, Stonewall Jackson would not go away. Nicole Floyd, who will play collegiately at Wake Forest, drained her only three of the night with 27 seconds left to cut the lead to just three at 49-46. Floyd led the Raiders with 19 points and 12 rebounds and noted the constant rotation of six-foot defenders on her from the Cosby defense was something she hadn't experienced much at the high school level, but had in AAU play.

It was Tyra Whitehead who hit the two free throws after being fouled after Floyd's basket with :16 to go that proved to seal the deal. A Hayley Nordike three-point try missed the mark at :06 left, paving the way for Adomako to hit two and close the game.

The challenge of winning a State Championship is one thing. The challenge to do it while going undefeated is totally different.

"It's harder to coach. You're excited for them because you keep getting all this recognition," Mead explained, which included a #17 ranking in the nation for girls basketball by USA Today. "As a coach, that's the hardest thing to do, to keep them grounded. We talked about it a little bit, but we're the type of team where we win one game at a time."

When the Titans look back on this accomplishment, they will certainly appreciate two wars that prepared them for tonight's ultimate battle: the 50-49 win on the same Siegel Center floor December 23rd over Highland Springs in the Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament, where Adomako was fouled with 1.1 seconds left and hit two free throws to win, and their 80-77 overtime win over 5A State Champion Princess Anne on January 18th at the Classic at Highland Springs High, where Adomako put the Titans on her back and carried them to the victory in the extra session after blowing a double-digit second half lead.

"In those games, we got to prove that we're not just all talk," Jefferson explained.

"As a player, as a team, we already had a mindset that everyone's looking, we can't make any mistakes," Jones added. "I believe those games definitely helped us tonight because we've been here before. All the times we play in big games, we find a way to come together as a team."

The Titans erase the memories of their 64-52 loss to Highland Springs in the Central Region Playoffs under the old format a year ago, ending that season before March even began. This victory comes in the school's eighth year of existence.

And as for taking the trophy back to Chesterfield with an unblemished record, Mead added one thing.

"Everyone kept telling me, 'Well, you need to lose one!'. Not necessarily."

Cosby joins the John Marshall boys team as the only two 2014 State Champions from the "Central Region", as the Henrico boys and Highland Springs girls lost in the 5A State Finals earlier on Friday.

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