By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- It would take a lengthy highlight reel just to capture Travis Fulgham's contributions to the host Massanutten Military Academy's 49-41 win over Shenanadoah Valley Academy in a Cavalier Athletic Conference tournament semifinal match-up Thursday night.
Fulgham, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, scored a game-high 30 points, including three dunks and a four-point play. He also excelled on defense in the second half, taking the Stars' top scorer, Elijah Moore, in a switch from a zone to a man-to-man defense, and limited Moore to five second-half points, after he poured in 17 before the break.
Fulgham spread his offense nearly evenly, with 14 tallies in the first half, and 16 in the final two quarters and grabbed nine rebounds.
"[At halftime, coach Melvin Abrams] told us to rebound and play good defense, and play as a team," Fulgham said. "I enjoy the dunks, of course."
The win put MMA (8-5, 2-2 Cavalier) in its first post-season championship game in the five-year tenure of coach Melvin Abrams.
Moore, a junior center, went on a personal 9-2 run over the first 6:45 of the game, before teammate Austin Plank dropped in a field goal for the Stars. The Colonels could only muster two buckets by Fulgham, and a deuce by Kenya Ray-Abrams as Shenandoah Valley held an 11-6 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
The Colonels then turned it up a notch, opening the second quarter with a 12-6 run, built on 10 points by Fulgham.
In the final 2:19 of the frame, Moore scored six more for the Stars and Ray-Abrams connected on a 3-pointer and a free throw to bring the Colonels within one at halftime.
After the halftime break, Fulgham nailed a trey 13 seconds into the third quarter to put MMA up, 25-23, and the Colonels then switched their defense.
"Pretty much throughout the season we've played primarily zone [defense]," Abrams said. "This is one of the teams I thought we could play some man against. We were a little lazy, a little sluggish, and I felt like if we went man-to-man, it would force us to play with some energy."
Neither squad scored over the next 3:30, then Nantambu Abdul-Majia and Leonardo Silva dropped in layups to give SVA a 27-25 lead.
Fulgham answered with a conventional three-point play, and Ray-Abrams sank two free throws, followed by Silva's only trey on the night, and the Colonels held a 33-32 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the frame.
Fulgham then completed a four-point play, getting fouled on a made trey and converting the free throw, and MMA clung to a 37-35 lead as the quarter ended.
The Colonels' man-to-man defense became even more effective in the fourth quarter as Ray-Abrams (18 points on the night) camped out at the free-throw line during a personal 8-3 run.
But the Stars could only score a conventional 3-pointer by Plank, as the Colonels gained a 45-38 advantage with 1:13 remaining on the game clock.
Moore then scored a deuce and a field goal for his three fourth-quarter points (team-high 22), while Fulgham slammed home his third dunk and made 1 for 2 at the line.
Chase McDevitt closed out the game with 1 for 2 turn at the charity stripe, for the only Colonels' point scored by someone other than Fulgham and Ray-Abrams.
The Colonels won both of the regular season meetings with SVA, 50-40, and 54-42.
"It's great to win the semifinal," Fulgham said. "We're happy to be in the championship."
"Gotta credit [the Stars]," Abrams said. "They played hard. It's tough to beat a team three times in one season."
The Colonels will play the winner of tonight's other semifinal contest between Middleburg Academy and Wakefield, in the championship game on Feb. 21, at Wakefield School at 6:30 p.m.