The scores were nearly identical but the manner of victories were different for the Oakton Cougars in their first two games of the 2019-20 girls high-school basketball season.
Oakton opened by holding on for a 48-44 road victory over Forest Park on Dec. 2. Then, the next night, the Cougars put together a fourth-quarter comeback to down the visiting Herndon Hornets, 48-43. Both were non-conference games.
Against Herndon, Oakton trailed 36-32, then went on an 8-0 run to take the lead for good with 3:43 to play. A three-pointer by Sophia Zinzi from the left wing with 4 minutes left gave the Cougars the lead for good at 38-36.
“That was a big shot Zinzi hit,” Oakton coach Fred Priester said. “They were leaving her open. So I told her, ‘if you get a good look, take the shot.’ ”
Zinzi (seven points, four rebounds, three steals) closed the game by making two free throws and teammate Grace Meshanko made a number of foul shots in the final 2:40 to keep the Cougars ahead. She hit nine foul shots in the final period.
Meshanko had a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds to go with three steals and three assists.
Also for Oakton, Sejal Singh had eight points and five boards, Kara Vietmeyer had seven points and two blocks and Lauren McMarlin had seven rebounds and a steal.
Oakton trailed 18-16 at halftime, then 29-26 after three quarters.
“I thought we played hard in the fourth quarter,” Priester said. “We played good sagging defense and Grace was a good leader on the floor.”
Oakton played without junior starting forward Hannah Kaloi for the second straight game. She has an injury that could keep her sidelined for an indefinite period.
In the win over Forest Park, Oakton had double-digit leads at points but was not able to put the game away. Vietmeyer had 16 points and Meshanko 12 in the win.
“They were two physical games and good wins,” Priester said. “I was worried we would be tired against Herndon from the night before.”
NOTE: Oakton’s bus ride to the away game at Forest Park in Prince William County on Dec. 2 took a nightmarish four hours because of a traffic accident that did not involve the team bus. The game did not start until about 9 p.m.