By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- Time was running out and Michaela Koontz knew she had to make a play.
The Stonewall Jackson senior drove to the basket and hit a buzzer-beater to give the Generals a 35-33 girls basketball victory over Luray in the Shenandoah District tournament semifinals Tuesday at Eastern Mennonite University. The seventh-seeded Generals will play fourth-seeded Stuarts Draft in Friday's final at EMU at 6:30 p.m. The win also clinches a Region B, Division 1 berth for Stonewall Jackson.
The Generals had the ball with 10 seconds left, after a timeout, and coach Jeff Burner said nothing went the way it was supposed to. Since the designed play broke down, Koontz decided to take control.
"I got the ball and saw there was four seconds left, so I knew I just had to take it and it went in," Koontz said.
The Generals had a nine-point lead with 5:35 left in the game, but the Bulldogs made a furious rally.
Luray's Jordan Dudley hit a 3-pointer, which ignited a 10-1 run.
With the game tied at 31-31 with 40 seconds left, Burner called a timeout and designed a play for a shot for Margaret Moomaw. The play worked to perfection and Moomaw drilled the baseline jumper to give the Generals a 33-31 lead with 35 seconds left in the game.
"That was big," Burner said. "[Moomaw's] probably our best shooter."
Luray's Michaela Nichols missed a shot on the next possession, but Katie Keyser scored on a putback to tie the game with 16 seconds left.
Defense was a big key for the Generals throughout the game, as they held Luray's top scoring threat, Sable Ponn, to only two points. Ponn was in foul trouble throughout the game and fouled out with 2:55 left in the game.
Burner credited Rhea Jett's defense as a key to slowing the 5-foot-11 junior down.
"Rhea does a good job position-wise of getting in the right spots," Burner said. "And when you do that you're going to get some calls. She's not afraid to take charges."
The game started off rocky for both teams. The Generals had seven turnovers in the first quarter, and didn't score until 4:54 was left in the opening quarter.
Luckily for the Generals, Luray was having struggles of its own.
The Bulldogs started the game out 1 for 10 from the field.
The two teams went back and forth throughout the first half, with neither team having more than a four-point lead.
With Ponn struggling, Nichols ignited the Bulldogs. The guard scored 11 points in the first half.
Stonewall Jackson started the third quarter off strong with a 9-2 run to take a 28-20 lead. Koontz drained a 3-pointer and Hannah Stout had four points during the spurt.
The Generals have struggled on offense most of the season, but in the last couple games have found just enough to get them over the hump.
Stonewall Jackson upset second-seeded Wilson Memorial in the quarterfinals.
"The win over Wilson [Memorial] gave us some confidence," Koontz said. "We're just being more patient on offense, and we're trying to do the little things right."
Nichols led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Stout led the Generals with 13 points.
The Generals lost quite a few close games, and Burner said he was happy to see things turn around for his players.
"I'm just glad the team got a payoff," Burner said. "They've worked hard, but at times we just haven't been able to make shots. It's good to see their hard work pay off."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com