Young athletes who log major minutes against older competition in various sporting contests likely know all about being “thrown into the fire.” It’s a notion that typically entails a mix of learning, adversity and benefits.
Colonial Forge High School girls’ varsity basketball head coach Lashaun Cook could relate.
After joining the program as an assistant during the 2014-15 season, Cook became the head coach midway through that same winter. Two seasons later, the Eagles won the 2017 VHSL Class 6 title, becoming the first such state champions ever in Stafford County.
That historic victory made Colonial Forge The Free Lance-Star’s girls’ basketball Team of the Decade for 2010-19.
Now entering her seventh year in leading the varsity group, Cook can recall the early, “humbling” process tracing back to her first two go-arounds.
“There were some ups and downs, with me always being so hard on myself,” she admitted. “However, when I go back and look at the finished product of each season, it was honestly better than I thought it was. We’ve been blessed with some awesome athletes, parents, community, and administration.”
When the 2015-16 season opened, Cook sensed a big turnaround was nearing.
The Eagles had already made their name with annual deep runs into the regional playoffs. Still, a collective goal of raising a state banner remained firmly in their sights.
Ultimately, Cook’s perceptions rang true the following season, when the Eagles stormed through competition with a 25-6 record en route to the state title, capped by a 52-38 win over Oakton in the championship game.
While standouts such as Shakira Austin, Camille Downs, Olivia Gaither and Cameren Downs attracted the majority of attention, Cook will quickly point out the high importance of all who were associated.
“Every single player and staff member played an integral role in our success,” she said. “If you take one piece from that puzzle, we won’t be as successful as we were. It took the entire team.”
Three seasons have passed by since the 2017 winter came to a close and the Eagles continue to find themselves posting admirable win-loss records. Colonial Forge wrapped up 2019-20 in going 17-6 overall with an impressive 11-1 showing in conference play. It’s a testament to how they’ve persevered even while having a target on their back.
“Looking at the talent we had on that state championship team, I feel everyone always thought it was their year to get us afterwards because those notable players moved on,” she said. “To see area opponents have still struggled with us, it speaks volumes to our work ethic, strength, and foundation. With these girls, they step in the gym and know expectations. I’m thankful for the young ladies who understand what we’re trying to do.”