If losing the first two games of the season is a distant memory to the Madison girls basketball team, falling in the Liberty District championship game last year must feel like a lifetime ago.
Freshman sensation Kelly Koshuta scored a career high 32 points and the Warhawks routed South Lakes 78-47 Friday night to reestablish their supremacy in the district. Megan Henshaw added 19 points during a game that was just about out of reach by halftime.
"It's definitely more fun to win, that's for sure," Madison head coach Kirsten Stone said, contrasting a 45-41 loss to Stone Bridge in the title game last season. "And a couple girls know both [winning and losing]."
The Warhawks used a 10-0 run before halftime to extend their lead to 34-18, and kept the pedal down in the second half to pull away. Koshuta played a major role in that surge, scoring 17 points in a quarter and a half of play before Stone went to the bench when the result was assured. The 6-foot-2 freshman, who was limited to nine points in the teams' last meeting, did whatever she wanted inside, and opened the perimeter for Henshaw, who knocked down a career high five 3-pointers, giving her 58 on the season.
"They double-teamed, and I'm still getting used to that," Koshuta said of what proved to be just her second single-digit scoring output of the season in a 60-42 win over the Seahawks on February 7. "Tonight I was ready for it."
The scoring barrage pushed Koshuta's scoring average to 19.8 per game, good for second best in the Northern Region. She also took home the tournament most valuable player award and all-tournament first team honors, along with teammates Henshaw and Megan LeDuc, and Abigail Rendle and Mary Severin of South Lakes.
The game was close midway through the second quarter, but a stretch of shots by the Seahawks that inexplicably would not fall allowed Madison to gain the upper hand. The Seahawks created a brief surge of momentum with a 5-0 run early in the second half, but they only got as close as 13 points. Gabrielle Schultz led South Lakes with 12 points, and Severin added nine.
While South Lakes relied on the balanced attack that carried them this season, Madison saw just four players score until the final minutes of the game. Stone is confident that the talent in the starting lineup can compensate for a young bench filled with potential.
"Those four are pretty different in the way they score, so I don't see it as a problem," Stone said of Koshuta, Henshaw, Katie Kerrigan (10 points) and LeDuc (four points). "Our bench can score, they're just young, so they struggle to figure out how."
Koshuta credits losses to last year's region champ West Springfield and private school powerhouse Georgetown Visitation to open the season as learning opportunities. While Stone says those late November and early December games are out of sight and out of mind, Koshuta has a much better memory.
"It actually doesn't seem that far," she said. "[But] I think those were some of our best games, playing two of the best teams."
Despite the loss, South Lakes still earned a home game in the first round of the Northern Region tournament next week. Madison will have at least one at home if it can beat its first opponent. Despite the big win, Stone won't rely on momentum too much.
"We're kind of a pessimistic team, we like to say everyone we're going to play is tough," Stone said. "Yes it's confidence, but at the same time we try not be cocky."
Original: James Madison's girls basketball team was boosted by 69 percent shooting and 32 points from freshman Kelly Koshuta en route to a 78-47 victory over South Lakes in the Liberty District Championship game at South Lakes on Friday.
Madison sprinted out to a lead, which South Lakes closed to within six points in the first half. However, the Seahawks were held back by 25 percent shooting from the field and a rebounding advantage by the Warhawks.
Madison (21-4, 13-1 Liberty) earns its fourth Liberty crown in five years. Both teams advance to the Northern Region. South Lakes will host Annandale on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Madison will play Lake Braddock.
South Lakes (15-7, 10-4) leaders on Friday: Junior guard Gabrielle Schultz (12 points, three rebounds) and junior forward Mary Severin (nine points, nine rebounds, and one assist).
Full Madison stats coming soon.