By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY - Sherando's girls basketball team appears to have peaked in the eyes of head coach Kevin Reed, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Warriors.
Sherando has put together a solid run through the early stages of the postseason, and the success continued on Tuesday as the No. 2 Warriors dismantled visiting James Wood, 80-45, in the first round of the Region II, Division 4 tournament.
"The last three weeks we have just been playing really good basketball," Reed said. "We're playing unselfish basketball. We're flying on both ends of the court now. I just love the way we're playing. It's pretty basketball."
Sherando will host No. 3 Loudoun County -- Reed's former team -- on Thursday in the tournament semifinals in the Warriors' third straight trip to the Region II semifinals.
Sherando (15-10) jumped on the seventh-seeded Colonels from the get-go, opening the game with a 12-4 run and forcing James Wood coach Rhonda Slider to call a timeout with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
The break in action did little to cool off the Warriors, who took a 21-8 lead into the second period behind a 9 for 16 shooting effort from the floor. Sherando hit seven of its first eight shots of the contest, and freshman Lauren Reed and sophomore Dani Rizzari powered the Warriors' offense by combining for 13 points.
Sherando also forced seven James Wood turnovers in the opening period, and Kevin Reed said he has begun to expect starts like the one he saw on Tuesday.
"I'm not really surprised by the way we came out and played because of our effort the last couple weeks, and the way we practice," Kevin Reed said. "The focus has been there every minute that we're in the gym."
The Warriors continued to widen the margin in the second period, as Sherando opened the frame with a 16-4 run to take a 37-12 lead after sophomore Erin Magalis hit a pair of free throws with 2:50 left to play in the first half.
Colonels sophomore Sarah Johnson (team-high 13 points) answered the free throws with a bucket in the paint, but Sherando ended the half with another run, this one a 7-3 spurt to take a 44-17 lead into intermission.
James Wood played the Warriors tough in two regular-season meetings, but Slider said the defensive intensity just wasn't there for the Colonels on Tuesday.
"I don't think we played defense very well in the first half, and when you get down like that you just can't come back," Slider said. "You can talk about it as much as you want, but when you're not moving your feet and you're letting girls run through your defense ... it's kind of hard."
Sherando had five players score in double digits in the win, led by Lauren Reed's 20. Jessica Hakel tallied 16 points, Rizzari and Erin Magalis each added 11 and Heidi Brown chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds. The Warriors had 19 assists as a team in the contest.
"You can just see how comfortable everybody is with the basketball now," Kevin Reed said. "We're not trying to get rid of it too soon ... we're looking to make plays."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org