By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The Handley Judges used their typical two-pronged offensive, effective in the paint and at the perimeter, to hold back a feisty James Wood Colonels team and take a 75-63 win in Northwestern District girls basketball action Thursday evening.
Senior center Kirsten Ward prevailed in the paint for the Judges, pouring in a game-high 31 points (18 in the key) and grabbing 18 rebounds.
Handley (11-5, 2-3 Northwestern) got solid perimeter offense led by senior guard Cassie Alamo, who made six 3-pointers on an amazing 16 attempts and added a free throw at the end of contest for a 19-point outing.
"They played a little bit of 'D' on us, but we just kept taking [it] to them and they couldn't keep up with us -- we're a quicker team," Ward said. "They didn't have anyone to match up to my size.
"[Coach Marvin Scott] told us to go out there and make up for the Millbrook game, to look past it, because we're trying to go to states, to take it all the way. We were definitely starting to work more as a team tonight, and that's what we need."
The game had the makings of blowout, as Handley scored 10 points before James Wood got on the board with a Laura Seymour layup with four minutes remaining in the frame.
The Judges responded with Alamo's second 3-pointer and held the Colonels at bay for a 19-13 lead at the end of the period.
Handley experienced a scoring drought in the first half of the second period, managing only 2 for 9 free-throw shooting, while the Colonels tallied 10 points, the last bucket in the streak being a layup by Whitney Dick (12 points on the night) to give the Colonels their only lead of the game, 23-21, with four minutes remaining in the period.
The Judges got back on top with Alamo's second 3-pointer and two Ward layups to outscore James Wood, 9-4, as the clock wound down to halftime, and held a narrow 31-27 lead at the break.
James Wood (8-8, 1-4 Northwestern) stayed in the game in the second half, as senior guard Sarah Callaham scored 15 of her team-high 17 points and senior forward Miranda Moore dropped in eight of her 10 points after the intermission.
"I thought we shared the ball really well," Callaham said. "We were looking for each other and we were really playing for one another. We came out really, really hard and our defense was on for the most part.
"Our stamina just needs to get a little bit better, and I think we'll be able to take it to them when we play them next week. We have a lot of heart."
Ward was dominant in the fourth period for the Judges, scoring 13 points in the close-out frame, and the Colonels couldn't catch up in spite of 11 points by Callaham.
"[We came together] in spurts," Judges coach Marvin Scott said. "There's still some inconsistent moments that we're having and I know that we're dealing with kids, but there's an expectation that they'll be focused when they're on the floor.
"A lot of times, especially in the first half, when there were some run-outs, the ball was passed right by our players. Our vision was not there. When they took the lead, that was a lack of intensity on our part and a lack of focus."
James Wood coach Rhonda Slider noted the wearing effect of the Judges' offense.
"Tonight we really wanted to stress hustling, all the time, up and down the floor, for four quarters," Slider said. "We got 10 points down at the beginning, and I thought, 'Oh, no.' But the girls pulled it back out, and they started hustling. They saw that hustling can yield results.
"In the fourth quarter we got a little tired. [Ward] is tough inside and we know they like to get the ball inside and to drive. At the end, they were able to get to their bigs."