By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Central's girls started out short on the bench and long on fouls, but overcame those obstacles to top Stonewall Jackson in a Shenandoah County rivalry 67-47 on Friday night to keep their record (4-0) unblemished before a good crowd.
Freshman Meredith Phillips (career-high 23 points) and junior Katelyn Poston (19 points) continued to lead the Falcons as they combined for 42 points against a deeper Stonewall Jackson team (2-2). Really the whole team, headed by first-year varsity coach Mallory Skarupa, deserved the credit.
The Falcons had a roster of eight, including one senior against the visitors, who featured 14 Generals and seven seniors. On top of that, three members of Skarupa's team picked up three fouls and put the Generals in the double-bonus with 5:24 left in the first half, yet their run-and-shoot offense and discipline defensively outlasted the visitors.
"They really shot the ball well tonight," Stonewall coach Jeff Burner said. "I saw the Phillips girl last year and thought she was really talented, but nothing like this. I think she banked in two 3's, and, when that happens, you know you're in for a long night."
Asked about the standouts, Burner said, "Yes, unfortunately they were in white [Central's jersey color]."
Poston played an all-around strong game, hitting seven straight free throws; directing the team; rebounding (five) and playing suffocating defense. Phillips drilled three 3's, and seemed to make a key hoop whenever Stonewall got inside double digits. She also hauled down four rebounds. Sydney Plum also had nine points.
After a 4-all tie, the Falcons ran off 11 straight points. Three straight free throws by Poston near the end of the first quarter gave Central its first double-digit lead (20-9).
A basket by General Michaela Koontz (five rebounds) cut it to nine to end the first quarter, but Poston opened the second with two more charity tosses to make it 22-11. Stonewall forward Hannah Stout (team-high 14 points) cut it to 22-13; then Phillips hit two jumpers. The score was 26-13, and Coach Burner called a timeout with 6:17 to go in the half.
Stonewall connected on just three baskets in the second quarter, but went to the line a bunch as the roster-depleted Falcons continued fouling. Four straight free throws by General Emily Jordan (10) made it 26-17 with 5:24 left until the half. Even though Stout scored another hoop to again get the score inside the 10-point spread, it was Phillips who wrapped a jumper and a 3-pointer around the General score. The Falcons led by 12 and never looked back.
Soon after, Phillips, who scored 14 points in the last outing against Skyline, and Poston, who knocked in 25 in the same game, picked up their third fouls. However, astute substituting by Skarupa, and her team's overall conditioning, kept Central pushing the ball through the second half, while Stonewall tried to slow down the undefeated team.
"I didn't think we shot real well throughout the game, we didn't make the extra pass, and didn't score real well inside," Burner said.
"We're going to be small, and we know that, so we have to make up for it with speed and feistiness," said Poston. "Coach Skarupa has a way of rotating us around to different positions to protect us from having one girl get into too much foul trouble. Sometimes we have a post player at maybe 5-foot-4, but it works."
No Falcon fouled out.
It worked also because Skarupa had her girls in shape. Poston and Phillips credited that with a drill called "Michigan State's," which helps the Falcons with their conditioning and ball-handling at once. Each girl runs a set of 12 lengths of the court, using various dribbles each time she goes up and down the court. Then comes a full practice.
"Our girls play with a lot of heart, but we need to work on distributing the ball on offense," Skarupa said. "We seemed content there at the end putting up 3's when we should be working on that as the season goes on. We have to stay out of foul trouble when they're calling fouls and we know that. We better get ready for more of it."