By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL - Two teams searching for their first victory squared off as the Warren County girls' basketball team hosted Madison County Wednesday night.
A youthful Wildcats squad struggled early to contain the Mountaineers' offense, allowing easy buckets inside the paint. The problems defensively, combined with too many turnovers in the first half, forced the Wildcats into a difficult situation.
Despite an intense effort in the second half, Warren County could not overcome the early deficit as the Mountaineers notched their first win of the season, 41-25.
"This was our first win this year and the girls deserved it," Madison coach Katherine Johnson said. "We had as many as three freshmen or three seniors on the floor at different times tonight and we are going through a learning process. This is definitely the best group of girls we have had in a long time. They get after it and play beginning to end. That shows a lot of heart."
Trailing 30-10 in the third quarter, Warren began to pressure Madison's offense and force the Mountaineers out of their offensive attack. The Mountaineers were pushed out of their comfort zone inside the paint and forced to pull the trigger on longer-range shots. With the buckets not falling for Madison, Warren began to cut the deficit.
A pair of 3-pointers by Mary Hensley and Gabby Turner as the third quarter came to an end began the Wildcats' charge. They carried the momentum into the fourth quarter as the Wildcats started with a seven-point run as a variety of players got into the mix for Warren.
Turner started the quarter with a pair of free throws after being fouled in the lane. Loryn Lyszczarz added a score on an offensive rebound, and was later followed by a bucket from Brianna Caison. Alyson Fox finished the streak by connecting on the front half of a bonus situation at the foul line.
"The thing we seemed to focus on at halftime was cutting down on our youthful mistakes," Warren coach John Kelly said. "They did that and we were able to make a run on offense in the second half."
With the lead cut to nine, the Warren girls found themselves with an opportunity to inch closer. The Wildcats continued their defensive dominance and pushed inside offensively. It was then that things went sour. Three Warren players went 0-for-5 from the free-throw line the rest of the game.
"We missed five free throws down the stretch and we had two turnovers back to back," Kelly said. "I refer to our youth a lot, but that is some of the mistakes that hurt us tonight."
Madison was able to pull away as the Mountaineers found themselves at the line with Warren searching for a way back into the game. Although not perfect, Madison County did just enough to pull away to secure the victory as time ran out on the Wildcats.
"You have to give them a lot of credit," Johnson said. "They picked up the tempo on defense in the second half and things stopped going our way. They made it tougher on us, but we were able to get to the free-throw line and the girls came through for us."
"The last 16 minutes we played inspired basketball," Kelly said. "The thing is you have to play 32 minutes in a game, not just 16. Sometimes with a young group like we have, the only way you can learn is from experience on the court. The best way is to correct those mistakes and improve going forward."