By Jim Laise - email@example.com
STEPHENS CITY--A feisty Martinsburg (W.Va.) girls basketball team put the wraps on Sherando star Lauren Reed, and with her the Warriors' chances, Friday night to knock off the home team 63-61 before a loud crowd at Sherando.
Reed, a freshman who scored 38 points against Liberty in an earlier game, seemed able to assault that total in the second quarter alone. Her 15 points, including four 3-point shots, gave Sherando a 43-26 halftime lead, but Bulldog coach Wes Hall operated three girls on her--Mykera Days, Essence Underwood and Brandy James--to hold the first-year player without a field goal for the other three periods. She finished with 20 points.
"[Days, Underwood and James] did a great job on her," Hall said. "Obviously, we were not happy with  points [from Reed in the second quarter]. We are an on-ball, man-pressure team, and I've never given up 29 points [Sherando's total] in one quarter. That's not us. My challenge to them was to keep them to 50 or less after three, and I thought we had a chance."
"Coach just told me to keep denying her the ball and to watch the ball when she didn't have it. She's a great player," said James.
"They seemed to be more aggressive in the second half, on me and everybody on the team," said a teary-eyed Reed. "They did a great job."
The youngster and her teammates were shedding tears because they not only led 43-26 at the half, but carried a 17-point advantage about two minutes into the third quarter. Then things started to change.
"You know, in varsity sports, I don't care who you are, it's tough for a freshman player to stand out," said Hall.
Sherando acting coach Susan Saylor refused to use the fact that the Sherando roster features one junior, six sophomores and three freshmen as an excuse. "We just didn't make the rotations and they did. That's all. We'll learn from this," she said. Sherando also played mostly without veteran Alaina Combs, who injured a foot in the first quarter.
The Warriors were playing without head coach Kevin Reed, Lauren's Dad, who was "unavailable tonight," according to Saylor. She said the elder Reed would be on the bench in the Warriors' next action.
Sherando hit the road for two games at West Virginia teams this week, while the Martinsburg team (3-0) was off.
"We used the whole week to watch film on [Sherando]. I thought we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do," said Hall. And, as the coach predicted, the Bulldogs held the Warriors (3-3) to 49 points by the end of the third period.
That was because after posting 29 points in the first half, Sherando had to settle for just six points in the third period. The Warriors totaled just a dozen tallies for the second half.
"To tell you the truth, I think we may have been a little intimidated when we came in here. But we held together and with the help of some of our veteran players were able to come back," said Hall.
Indeed they did. With the three Bulldogs holding Reed without a hoop in the second half, the team from Martinsburg started revving up an offense that produced 27 second-half points.
Heidi Brown (10 points, 3 rebounds) gave Sherando a commanding 47-30 lead with about six minutes left in the third quarter. Then the Bulldogs outscored the Warriors 12-2. As the game entered the fourth, it was 49-42 on a 3-pointer by Kiana Bullett (game-high 23 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block). One of four 3-pointers Martinsburg knocked down.
Martinsburg pulled within 50-46, as Bullett scored twice by the 5:05 point of the third quarter. But Reed canned a pair of free throws and Jessica Hakel (13 points) tallied a 3-point play with 4:38 left. Sherando fans felt comfortable with a scoreboard reading 55-46 in favor of their team.
Another pair of free throws by Reed gave Sherando a 57-49 advantage at the 3:37 mark, but then the Bulldogs' transition game pulled them to the game's first tie.
Sherando committed 23 turnovers for the game and seven of them came in the third frame.
Alexis Bonner followed her own miss, Underwood (10 points, 3 rebounds) knocked down a jumper, then James (13 points, 4 rebounds) nailed a 3-pointer. The score was 57-all with 1:32 remaining in the period.
"We just had to calm down and be aggressive," Bullett said. "We just had to focus. Everybody contributed."
Neither team took more than a two-point lead the rest of the way. The last tie came at the 22-second mark when Brown hit the back end of a two-shot foul for a 59-all game.
Martinsburg scored the next four points to nail down the win. First Bullett followed up a miss and then Underwood knocked down two free throws with 8.9-seconds left.
Immediately, Hall called his team's last timeout.
"There was 8-something left and I can't say how big those free throws by Essence were. I told the girls that when Sherando got the ball we were going to stay on the block and let one girl [Days] cheat out a bit. I wanted her to occupy the ball for three seconds, then no fouling," Hall said.
Days and her team did better than that. Erin Magalis' shot went through at the buzzer for the Warriors and the Bulldogs bench erupted.
"It was an emotional game," said Saylor. "We ran our plays in the first half. They're young, but our rotations were slow. I'll take responsibility for it. I didn't put them in a position to win."