By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Nursing a two-point halftime lead, Luray exploded with a 20-0 run over a five-minute span in the third quarter to pull out a 45-26 win over Warren County in non-district girls basketball Friday evening.
The third quarter run was actually the second stage of a Luray rocket launch.
With the Bulldogs trailing, 17-14, and 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Luray poured in six points in a mere four seconds, as guard Sable Ponn scored a field goal, guard Sharon Kelly stole the Wildcats' in-bound pass and fed Ponn for another deuce, and center Danyelle McGrady stole the next in-bounds pass and scored the bucket herself.
Autumn Troxell made the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity for the Wildcats (3-5), to make it 20-18, in favor of Luray (7-4), at the half.
Neither squad could put the ball inside the rim over the first two and a half minutes of the third period, then Luray senior forward Adrian Henry drained a 3-pointer to light the fuse on the 20-0 run, highlighted by another Henry trey, and six points by Ponn on two field goals and 2-for-2 at the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs' full-court press operated like a soldering iron on the Wildcats, as Ponn keyed the clamp-down with three of the Bulldogs five steals, a block, and an assist, during the skein.
The matchup marked the third meeting of the squads this season. Luray overhwhelmed the Wildcats, 63-30, in the season opener, and Warren County nipped the Bulldogs, 38-37, in the Strasburg Tip-off Tournament championship game.
Ponn, a 5-foot-11 junior, finished with a game-high 21 points, game-high seven steals, three assists, and a block.
"[The 20-0 run] really got everybody excited, and pumped up, and we had a whole new energy," Sable Ponn said. "The guards were trapping in the corner and taking away the entry pass, from there on out it was a piece of cake."
"This win feels especially good because that was a tough loss. We really wanted that tournament."
Luray held a slim 10-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, then junior forward Alesha Adams sank a 3-pointer at 6:11 in the second, keying a 9-3 run, that ended with an Adams field goal, to give the Wildcats a 17-14 lead at the 1:08 mark. It proved to be Warren County's last lead of the game.
Adams tallied a team-high 13 points.
"I'm pushing to try to penetrate more and get everybody open, not just me," Adams said. "We felt pretty good going into halftime break. We just came out a little slow and never really picked it up. We just never got to our potential. Switching to the man defense helped a lot, because we can pressure really well."
The Wildcats switched to a man-to-man defense for most of the fourth period, largely extinguishing Luray's rocket fuel, shutting out the Bulldogs over the first four minutes and 15 seconds of the frame, then limiting them to five points the rest of the way.
But Warren County managed only six points of its own.
"We had a little bit of luck with our press at the beginning of the game, so I figured we'd stay in it," Luray coach Chris Ponn said. "It all boils down to getting shots. When we get pretty good open looks, and we knock those down, we tend to do fairly well.
"The [third quarter] pressure helped with some quick, easy baskets. We played much better tonight than we did in the [Strasburg Tip-Off] tournament."
It was the Bulldogs' third game of the week, following losses to Stuarts Draft (51-37) on Tuesday, and Stonewall Jackson (38-35) on Thursday.
"It was mainly unforced turnovers," said Wildcats coach John Kelly. "In the first half, we did a good job of protecting the basketball, but in the second half we did not take care of the basketball.
"We actually lost the game more than they beat us this time."