By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL - Warren County's girls basketball team may have hoped that their seventh game would be a lucky one and result in their first win of the year when they hosted the Luray Bulldogs on Wednesday night in nondistrict action.
But the luck factor wasn't operative as the Bulldogs led from start-to-finish for a 44-31 victory.
Both teams were tentative and sloppy in the early going.
In the first quarter, both teams missed all of their free throw attempts (one for Luray, three for Warren County), but the Bulldogs got 3-pointers from senior guard Brooke Good and junior guard Emily Heiston on the way to a 12-8 lead.
The second quarter brought even less scoring.
Sophomore Brianna Caison scored from beyond the arc for Warren County to close within 19-15 at the 2:57 mark, but 37 seconds later, Heiston answered with the second of her three 3-pointers and Luray took a 22-15 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs (4-2) committed 16 first-half turnovers to 11 for the Wildcats.
Heiston had a game-high 16 points (3-for-6 on two's, 3-for-7 three-pointers, and 1-for-3 on free throws), five steals and four rebounds.
"Coming into this game, I was really nervous, because we haven't had practice in such a long time because of all the snow," Heiston said. "I was just expecting to get a few points here and there, but once I started shooting the ball I found my shot. I just think the game unfolded really well for our girls today."
The third frame seemed like a slow-motion video, with Warren County exchanging field goals by Caison, Gabby Turner and Taylor Bass, with Luray's 3-for-6 free throw performance, to cut the Bulldog lead to 25-21 with under two minutes remaining.
In the final minute of the quarter, Caison (team-high 11 points) sank another 3-pointer to cut the lead to 25-24. Luray answered with a 3-pointer by Good (10 points).
Heiston laced her third 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, and Luray employed a well-orchestrated zone defense that limited the Wildcats to field goals by Mary Hensley and Turner and 3-for-6 on free throws.
"We struggled a lit bit at the beginning. We haven't had the opportunity to practice because of the weather. Not making excuses, but it showed," Bulldogs head coach Chris Ponn said. "We played a bit of man [defense] at the beginning and I thought we did well, but our bread and butter is pretty much the 3-2 [zone], with my two big girls down low."
Luray outscored Warren County, 16-7, in the final quarter. The Bulldogs reversed the first half turnover situation, committing only five in the second half, to nine Wildcats miscues.
"It seemed like, in the fourth quarter, we had some of our younger players in the game, and they said, 'Here's the ball, we're gonna watch you do something,' instead of all five being active," Wildcats head coach John Kelly said. "Their pressure got to us a little bit and they didn't want the ball in their hands.
"After the game we talked about the fact that you want to have the ball in your hands. It may not be to score, but a pass, a box-out, whatever. It seemed we shut down for about four minutes. You can't be a team of one. You have to be a team of five and every person has to be an active part of that offense."