By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
HARRISONBURG -- Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner called a timeout with 59 seconds left to play in the Generals' game against Riverheads on Friday night to design a play for senior Heather Stout.
The game was already decided with the Generals trailing by 21, but Burner wanted his lone senior to go out with a basket. The play worked to perfection, and Stout closed out her career with a basket before being taken out of Riverheads' 45-29 Shenandoah District tournament semifinal win.
"It meant a lot to me to be able to make my final basket for Stonewall Jackson basketball," Stout said. "It was good to end my career on a made shot, but it's also a little sad knowing that it's over.
"This team has meant a lot to me. They're like my sisters and coach Burner is like family. He will do anything for you."
Unfortunately for Stout, she spent most of her last game inside the paint with her teammates unable to get her the ball.
Riverheads used a 1-3-1 zone which effectively bottled up Stout, forcing the Generals to have to settle for outside shots.
"They dared us to shoot from outside," Burner said. "I knew somebody was going to do that to us eventually. It was a smart game plan. We knew they were going to do it. Our kids are just a little too young to figure out where the holes are. We talked about it in practice, but talking about it and putting it into action are two different things."
The Generals hung with the Gladiators for most of the first three quarters. Stonewall Jackson sophomore guard Ashlie Clar hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 8-8 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.
Riverheads' Brittany Heizer scored two consecutive baskets inside to give the Gladiators a four-point lead after the first quarter.
The Gladiators began to pull away early in the second quarter. Riverheads scored the first nine points of the quarter to pull ahead 21-8 with 4:30 left in the first half.
Riverheads maintained the double-digit lead for the rest of the half and most of the third quarter until the Generals made a run late in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Clar and a basket by Michaela Koontz cut the lead to 28-20 with 2:41 left in the third quarter. Riverheads finally put the game away with a 15-0 run that carried over into the fourth quarter.
It was the first game for the Gladiators in two weeks, and coach Tim Morris said he was happy with how his team played.
"To come out here and play 32 minutes and only give up 29 points is pretty good," Morris said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect. We felt the first eight minutes would tell the tale. We were not impressive offensively by any means, but we held our own."
Kelsie Floyd led the Gladiators (13-3) with 13 points and was the only player from either team to score in double figures.
Clar had nine points to lead the Generals (6-12), while Stout finished with seven. The loss ends the Generals' season, but Burner said he was excited for the future for his young team. Stonewall Jackson has seven freshman and three sophomores.
For Stout, who plans to play at least one sport in college, it was a disappointing end to her season. However, she was proud of having played at Stonewall Jackson.
"I can't really put into words what it has meant to me to play here," Stout said. "I feel like I've matured so much as a person and learned discipline through playing sports. I've got to play with so many really good players and all the girls have been great.
"I'm just happy that I was able to be a part of this program."