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Defense ignites Falcons to win

By Jerry Holsworth - sports@nvdaily.com

QUICKSBURG -- For 13 minutes Thursday, Stonewall Jackson looked like a team on its way to a stunning upset of Central in girls basketball. The Generals were beating the undefeated Falcons press with ease and scoring at will.

But with 3:42 left in the second quarter, everything changed. Central exploded for an 18-0 run that left Stonewall Jackson (1-7) gasping for air. After that, the Falcons had no trouble dominating the Generals and eventually winning easily 67-52.

"I really felt that our full-court pressure really turned the game around for us, especially in the second quarter," Central coach Stephanie Mathews said. "We really got after it on defense, and played a lot better as a team."

After a layup by Stonewall Jackson's Rhea Jett put Stonewall up 27-21 with 3:42 left in the first half, a pair of freshman and a seasoned senior completely shut down the General's offense.

"I think that their pressure really bothered us, particularly in the second quarter," Stonewall coach Jeff Burner said. "That was really the ballgame. They're very difficult to defend in a half-court setting, but if we start turning the ball over like we did we're in deep trouble."

Falcons freshmen Katelyn Poston and Brenna Cook combined with senior Ashley Jernigan to press Stonewall Jackson into 11 second-quarter turnovers. The result was almost four minutes of total dominance by the Falcons on both ends of the court. By the time the smoke cleared, Central was headed to the locker room for the half holding a 39-27 lead.

"Ashley had a heck of a game," Mathews said. "She really broke out strong, and did a great job. Both Brenna and Katelyn did really well. But they've been very consistent all year. We really need that from them and they certainly came through tonight."

Offensively, Cook scored six of her 20 points for the night during the run, and Jernigan added another five. Theresa Barela came off the bench and also got into the act, scoring six of her eight points in the period.

Poston, who scored three during the run, was dominating in the first quarter, hitting seven points during the first period to finish the game with 10. She was one of three Falcons who scored in double figures for the night.

But it was Jernigan who led the way offensively, scoring 10 first-quarter points and finishing the game with a game-high 25 points for the Falcons.

The Generals' early success came as a direct result of deadly shooting by Cassie Conley and Ashlie Clar, and poor shooting by the Falcons. Conley scored 10 first-quarter points, and finished the game with 19. Clar got five of her 10 points for Stonewall in the first eight minutes of play.

While the Generals duo was lighting up the scoreboard, all of Central's players except Jernigan and Poston went scoreless over the same period.

"Our kids are really close right now," Burner said. "There were four minutes in the game where they really handed it to us. But for the rest of the time, we hung in there with them really well. There was that four minutes, but for the rest of the game we out-played them by three."

With Central comfortably ahead, Cook joined Jernigan in the second half, and played a big role in keeping Stonewall at bay for the rest of the game.

But the Generals also have to take some credit for their inability to come back. After hitting all seven of their free throw attempts in the first half, they went 7 for 16 from the line in the second half, and committed another 12 turnovers over the same time period. The Falcons were 6 of 10 from the line in the second half, including a perfect 4-for-4 by Cook, who made all eight of her free throw attempts for the game.

"We knew coming into this game that we were going to have to play hard to beat them," Mathews said. "Stonewall always plays us well, and they're very well-coached. We know that we have to match that if we're going to win."

Besides Conley and Clar, Keyanna Phelps also scored in double figures for Stonewall with 12 points, and Jett finished the night with eight.


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