By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Sydney Chrane better be careful.
The way the Clarke County sophomore made herself at home in Central's home gymnasium during Tuesday's Bull Run District girls basketball game, it might be argued she established temporary residency in The Nest -- and it is tax season, after all.
Chrane spent much of her night terrorizing the Falcons in the paint to the tune of 24 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks as the Eagles held on for a 59-55 victory.
The Eagles needed every bit of that production from their 6-footer, as persistent foul trouble combined with a gritty effort by the homestanding Falcons made Tuesday's second meeting between the two squads much tighter than the first.
"I think we learned from our mistakes and we're starting to work together better as a team," said Central's Mary Wakeman, who had eight points for the Falcons. "I think we came into the game mentally prepared for them."
It didn't look that way early, as Clarke County (12-3 overall, 6-2 Bull Run) opened with its trademark up-tempo attack to grab a 12-4 lead.
Central (9-5, 4-4) seemed intent on avoiding a repeat of the first matchup with the Eagles, a 46-36 loss on Dec. 12. The Falcons slowed the pace just a tick, cut down the turnovers and were within four at 17-13 by the end of the first quarter.
Allison Bright's two free throws pulled Central to within two points early in the second quarter, but Clarke County again surged behind Chrane and Anna Blue Catlett (20 points). Catlett's jumper with 2:53 left in the first half put Clarke County up 37-21, but Central answered right back with quick scores by Meredith Phillips and Mary Wakeman.
Clarke County's foul issues -- they had 28 total fouls in the game -- helped the Falcons get back within striking distance via the free-throw line. Central had 20 free-throw attempts in the second quarter alone, connecting on 12 to trail 39-31 at the break.
The Falcons kept up the pressure in the third quarter, pulling within four on Katelyn Poston's made free throw to cap a three-point play at the 4:08 mark. Catlett tallied back-to-back baskets on a driving shot in the lane and a layup off her steal, but Phillips scored on Central's ensuing possession and Poston drilled a jumper with four seconds left in the quarter to get her team back within four at 47-43.
Both teams went cold to start the fourth quarter, but Central did get within two again on a pair of made free throws by Sydney Plum.
The Eagles got the key basket of the night on their ensuing possession, when Becky Smith banked in a 3-pointer to push her team's lead back to five points.
Central couldn't do much offensively after that, and Clarke County connected on 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
"I was really pleased with the fact that tonight was a total team effort," Clarke County coach Tim Lawrence said. "We had a lot of different kids step up in big moments."
Poston had 10 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough for the Falcons. Phillips nearly added a double-double before fouling out with 1:50 to play. She finished with eight points and 14 rebounds.
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org