By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Central High School's girls basketball team can look forward to next season comforted in the knowledge that nearly every player on the roster is expected back.
And yet, as evidenced by Monday night's Bull Run District regular-season finale against Strasburg, that future promises to be less "Bright."
The Falcons made their formal farewell to their lone senior, Allison Bright, on their home court before the matchup with the Rams. And on her very own Senior Night, Bright showed just what Central will soon have to do without as she tallied 12 points and eight rebounds to help the Falcons to a momentum-building 66-41 victory before heading into Thursday's opening round of the district tournament.
"Everybody was hyped, everybody was getting pumped up in the locker room," Bright said. "We came out and I think this team really played a full 32 minutes -- all out, played with a lot of heart."
Bright had a quiet first half, as the adrenaline of that senior sendoff combined with playing the rival Rams affected her performance on the offensive end. Held to just a basket in the first two quarters, Bright settled down in the second half to have a stellar night.
"She's been our workhorse all season long and it was great to have a night to recognize her and all of her hard work," Central coach Mallory Skarupa said.
Strasburg (4-18, 3-11 Bull Run) had little interest in helping Bright make fond memories in her last regular-season game. The Rams, headed to Madison County on Thursday for their district tournament opener, looked to build a bit of momentum heading into the postseason. Central (13-7, 8-6 Bull Run) would have none of it, as the Falcons quickly turned up the heat and lured Strasburg into an up-tempo game.
That's not a style the Rams are comfortable with, and Central used a 13-0 run capped by Katelyn Poston's layup off her steal to build a 20-6 lead. Poston and Meredith Phillips (13 first-half points) did the majority of the damage in the first half, as the Falcons entered the break with a comfortable 38-17 lead.
"They got the kind of tempo they wanted, not the tempo we wanted," Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. "I think we helped create a lot of that in the first half. We were taking a lot of 3s, sometimes no passes [or] one pass, and never adjusted -- settled down, slowed down, made some passes on the offensive end. I think we could have done that."
The third quarter belonged to Bright, as the senior forward notched seven points in the frame. By the end of the third, Bright knew it was going to be a successful finale, of sorts. Central will be right back on its home court Thursday night to host William Monroe in the opening round of the district tournament. Game time is 7 p.m.
"We got a little bit of something from everyone," Skarupa said. "I will sleep well tonight."
Emily Melnikoff led the Rams with 16 points.
Poston finished with a team-high 15 points for the Rams. Sydney Plum notched a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Phillips just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Falcons.
Bright also came close to a double-double, but falling short of that wasn't about to spoil her night.
"Even better -- the support from my family and my friends, and especially from my team and my school, already had me excited," Bright said of the experience. "When I got on the floor and had those four other girls on my team with me, I couldn't be happier."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>