By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Selah Applin might just have earned herself a spot on the bench to open games for Massanutten Military Academy's girls basketball team.
Not really -- the three-year starter is way too valuable to the Colonels to serve as a game-shifting reserve, but Applin showed just how effective she could be in that role during Monday's 32-17 home victory over host Chelsea Academy.
Applin sat out the first quarter after missing part of last week's practice, but when she entered the game to start the second period the impact was definite and lasting. Applin scored seven points in that quarter, staking MMA (3-4) to 15-6 halftime lead after the first quarter had ended in a 4-4 deadlock.
"She made it a point to tell me this is the first game she hasn't started," Colonels coach Ryan Dowler said of Applin, the team's leading scorer. "But I have my own reasons for doing that."
It was more of the same in the second half, as Applin dominated inside to help the Colonels pull away. She finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, both game highs.
Chelsea Academy (2-6) struggled with turnovers in the first half, totaling 21 combined in the first two quarters, but settled down in the second half after coach Mark Clark delivered his first halftime "chewing out" of the season.
"They killed us," Clark said of the turnovers. "We're really young. We have two eighth-graders starting varsity and two ninth-graders. Three of the girls never played basketball before, so we are learning from the ground level -- things like blocking out, we have to block out.
"And my girls tend to panic when someone pressures them. I'm trying to get them to pass, to look and pass. And actually in the third quarter, that's the best passing they've done all season."
Chelsea Academy did pick up the scoring in the fourth quarter, as Helena Briggs scored six of her team-high 10 points in that frame. But Applin would not be denied, as she closed out the game with 10 fourth-quarter points.
"We executed the plays better," Applin said. "Some of us got tired, but we got back into the game toward the end."
The Colonels did struggle mightily in the first quarter, turning the ball over 12 times in that frame as Chelsea Academy stayed close.
"I attribute a lot of that to we just haven't practiced in a while," Dowler said. "I wanted to have practice yesterday, but a lot of girls were out of town. Some of them weren't even here today until just an hour before game time.
"We haven't practiced since last Wednesday, so I had no idea what I was going to get into with this game."
With Applin and Chelsea Reid (nine rebounds) leading the way, MMA dominated the glass by outrebounding Chelsea Academy, 49-23.
"We've always been pretty good at rebounding," Dowler said. "Obviously Selah can rebound and Chelsea Reid, as well, is pretty good a rebounding for us. They've been doing that all season. I really didn't have to teach them. They just know how to get after the ball."
Clark was encouraged by his team's response after the halftime break, perhaps another lesson learned in a season full of them for his youthful squad.
"If this team stays together, by next year we'll be a lot more competitive," Clark said. "The year after that, we'll actually be good."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>