By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Pretty much everything went right that could go right for Loudoun County in the first half against Sherando on Thursday night. Conversely, not much was going right for the Warriors.
Loudoun County used a strong start to the game en route to a 68-45 girls basketball victory over Sherando in the Region II, Division 4 semifinals. The win sends the Raiders to the Group AA, Division 4 state tournament, while the loss ends Sherando's season.
"It was one of those things where we did a lot of things well tonight," Loudoun County coach Derek Fisher said. "One of those games where things went well for us and probably not as well for them. If this were a seven-game series I think it would be pretty tight. It just happened to be our night tonight."
The Raiders wasted little time taking charge of the game by scoring the first four points, and eventually building a 13-4 lead with 3:54 left in the opening quarter.
Loudoun County's size gave the smaller Warriors trouble throughout the game. The combination of 6-foot Chloe Knox and 5-11 Maggie Phillips dominated inside the paint.
Sherando coach Kevin Reed said it was the physical play that really wore his team down.
"Just the physicalness got the best of us," Reed said. "They played really good man-to-man defense and it took us out of our sets."
A 3-pointer by Sherando's Lauren Reed cut the lead to 13-7 with 2:49 left in the opening quarter, but that was as close as the Warriors would get the rest of the way.
Knox scored the Raiders' last five points of the first quarter to grab a 10-point lead. The teams went back and forth early in the second quarter, but the Raiders seized control of the game with a 13-4 run to close the first half and take a 36-16 lead.
Loudoun County (20-4) out-rebounded Sherando, 26-9, in the first half.
The Warriors played better in the second half, and showed signs of life with their full-court press.
Sherando (15-11) started the fourth quarter with an 11-6 run, led by four points each from Lauren Reed and Heidi Brown, but it wasn't enough. A basket by Phillips and a 3-pointer by Tayler Tibbits helped take the momentum right back for the Raiders.
"We felt like every time they were starting to get a run, we were able to stem the tide," Fisher said. "We played pretty consistent defense. They have so many weapons that you have to guard. We just had to keep our focus defensively. It really felt like every time we gave them an open look, they knocked it down. We tried to contest everything."
Phillips had 22 points to lead the way for the Raiders, while Knox added 13 and Alyssa Paige had 12.
Both teams have very young squads. The Raiders, who will play Woodgrove in the Region II, Division 4 final on Saturday, have a combined 11 freshmen and sophomores on their team.
Fisher said he was very proud of his team this season.
"A lot of people looked at it as a rebuilding year and I did, too," Fisher said. "The kids just worked hard every day and we tried to get a little better. We were fortunate that tonight, when it mattered, we played our best game of the season."
Brown led the Warriors with 16 points, while Lauren Reed added 13.
After a slow start to the year, the Warriors won the Northwestern District title and 12 of their last 15 games. They have no seniors, and only one junior on the squad.
"It's hard to let them know right now the successes and the adversities that they've overcome," Kevin Reed said. "We've had a great run since January 2013 has rolled around, winning 12 games. It's a great success story."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com