By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Call it a frenzy. Call it playing at another level. Call it rising to the occasion.
Whatever it was, Jaclyn Ayers was in it. In Strasburg's 49-26 win over Chatham in the Region B, Division 2 quarterfinals on Thursday night, Ayers' 24 points was only a bucket shy of matching the Cavaliers point-for-point.
"Let's just say I'm in the zone," Ayers smiled, "and I just do whatever's in front of me, and what I think I can do."
In the second quarter, Ayers was brilliant. Steal after steal, basket after basket, the senior hauled the Rams away from a pesky Cavaliers team that, early on, kept pace with Strasburg by virtue of three second-quarter 3-pointers. And Katlyn Ayers, either gazing from the sideline, or admiring from the top of the key, was swept up in the moment as her older sister shouldered an entire game on her 5-foot-8 frame.
"I thought it was her highest-scoring game, but I guess it's not," Katlyn Ayers said. "It's her senior year, too, so that's even better.
"I mean, I was happy for her because she did good."
And while the final score may not indicate the Rams needed such a performance from Jaclyn Ayers, the circumstances in the second quarter proved otherwise.
Strasburg raced off to a 10-0 lead to start the game, but stumbled as Chatham came back to within 14-12 midway through the second quarter. Three consecutive steals by Jaclyn Ayers, followed immediately by three curling, twisting, dynamic layups, helped see the senior through an 8-1 outpacing of Chatham. She scored another two baskets in the quarter's final minute to cap a 6-for-7 performance in the period.
Behind Jaclyn Ayers' 16 first-half points, Strasburg had mounted a 30-19 lead, and the Rams defense had finally fallen into the flow of the game.
"When I get one [steal] I know I can get another," Jaclyn Ayers said, "So that's when my adrenaline kicks in and I do what I know I can do.
Then she paused, thought and laughed: "But then I tend to overplay sometimes -- I have to fix that."
Jennifer Jackson scored eight points for the Rams in the first half -- a 4-for-5 performance from the floor -- which further inched Strasburg away from Chatham. Rams senior Jenna Smoot scored 12 points, sinking all six of her foul shots.
Cavaliers guard Erin Ricketts (11 points) scored all three of Chatham's second-quarter field goals, all of them from beyond the 3-point arc. Chatham managed only one field goal in the second half, though, which was exacerbated by a 5-for-15 slump from the free-throw line.
"It's good to get a win," Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. "I thought Jaclyn really played a tremendous game out there for us, and we survived."
With the comfortable victory behind them, the Rams will practice once today before heading down to Eastern Mennonite University on Friday to face Bull Run District rival George Mason in the Region B, Division 2 semifinals. Strasburg lost in both its meetings with George Mason, but both games were played in Falls Church. At a neutral site, and with the season on the line, there's an air of self-assurance permeating through the Strasburg locker room.
"I think this [win] will help us in the next game -- it will carry over," Katlyn Ayers said. "It's good we're gonna get [George Mason] -- I have confidence.
"I'm just excited, I think we can do it."