By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY - Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy's girls basketball team rode the shooting of Allie Pieper to hold off a determined defensive effort by the Front Royal Flames on Thursday to earn a 28-22 victory.
"She's just a sophomore and all of my ball handlers are freshmen," Patriots coach Lauren Culler said of Pieper.
"She's really our only asset offensively right now, and it's going to stay that way until our freshmen get a better feel for the game."
With the Patriots unable to generate many points from anyone else, Pieper proved to be the difference by scoring 15 of SVCA's 28 points. That also helped overcome the Patriots' youthful backcourt, which committed 18 first-half turnovers and helped keep the Flames in the game despite a poor shooting night.
Despite 11 first-quarter turnovers, SVCA was able to begin the game with a 6-0 run thanks to Front Royal's poor shooting. The Flames missed all seven of their field-goal attempts to open the game.
"We just didn't have any shooting tonight," Flames coach Chris Davis said. "But our defense really played well. We put in a couple of new defenses and I think we convinced the girls that defense matters, especially when you're not shooting well."
Davis' remark perfectly described the first half of play. Front Royal was only able to hit three of its 28 field-goal attempts in the first two quarters, but its defense kept Pieper and her teammates from building an insurmountable lead.
"The turnovers really hurt us in the first half," Culler said. "But we talked about that at halftime, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half."
With the Patriots leading 20-10 heading into the second half, SVCA was able to cut its turnovers in the third quarter to six. Unfortunately for the Patriots, their shooting failed them in the period and they were not able to separate themselves from the Flames.
SVCA hit just one of its 12 field-goal attempts in the period, and missed both of their free-throw opportunities.
While the Patriots were struggling to score points, Angelica Vittitow kept Front Royal close with her proficiency from 3-point range. The Flames forward nailed a pair of 3-pointers, and hit 3-of-6 free throws to lead Front Royal in scoring with nine.
When she fouled out early in the fourth quarter, it spelled doom for any Flames chance of stealing a victory in the closing minutes of the game.
"She was our offense tonight," Davis said. "When she fouled out, that really killed us. That was my fault, though. I didn't realize she had four fouls."
Jocelyn Amos tried to make up for the loss of Vittitow, and had some success. The Flames guard scored four fourth-quarter points and finished the night with nine, but that just wasn't enough to overcome the SVCA lead.
Besides Amos and Vittitow, Brittany Moore and Mack Yarnall had two points each for the Flames, a home-school program.
Emily Tucker had four points for SVCA, and Shannon Conradi scored three for the Patriots.
"We didn't shoot the ball well tonight, and that was rough," Culler said. "But we really hustled out there the whole game, and I'm really proud of them for that."