By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- Michaela Koontz was in the zone on Friday night.
The Stonewall Jackson senior was hitting almost everything she shot. Koontz almost single-handedly erased a double-digit deficit, but Stuarts Draft would not be denied. The Cougars used a late third-quarter surge to pull out a 53-36 win in the Shenandoah District girls basketball tournament championship game at Eastern Mennonite University.
"I felt like I was on fire out there," Koontz said. "It felt good, but it would have felt better if we would have won."
The 5-foot-1 guard had a career-high 24 points for the Generals, but the best thing about her day came after the game. She found after the game her older sister had a baby during the game.
"It's really exciting," Koontz said. "I guess I'll be going to the hospital now to see it."
The Cougars seemed to take control of the game in the third quarter as they used an 8-0 run to take a 27-17 lead less than two minutes into the second half.
Stuarts Draft turned the game into an up-tempo affair and was able to get several fast breaks off of turnovers.
"We talked at halftime that we needed to create more turnovers and get our transition game going," Stuarts Draft coach Jason Kirby said. "We're not a real good team in the half court. We're working on it, but we're not there yet."
Koontz then made her presence felt. She drained three 3-pointers during an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 30-28 with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
"I've really been working on my 3-point shot," Koontz said. "I've been trying to get it better, and tonight it was just dropping for me."
The Cougars responded with a 13-2 run to end the third quarter, with most of the points coming on layups.
Koontz, who hit a buzzer-beater to give the Generals a win in the semifinals on Tuesday, hit back-to-back driving layups to cut the lead to 44-34 with 6:34 left in the game. That would be as close as the Generals would get in the fourth quarter.
Koontz had all but two of the Generals' points in the second half.
"She's a senior and she doesn't want it to end," Stonewall Jackson coach Jeff Burner said. "She was attacking. Even when she screwed up, she was attacking. I always tell the kids if you're going to screw up, at least do it attacking."
The game started off slowly for both teams. The Cougars made three field goals in the opening quarter, and the Generals hit two. Stuarts Draft had an 8-4 lead after the first quarter, but had to play the majority of the first half without top scorer Katelyn Bergey, who was out due to foul trouble.
A 3-pointer by Austin Wampler and a basket by Maizie Lewis gave the Cougars a 13-6 lead with 6:17 left in the first half.
The Generals (8-17) responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game. Koontz and Emily Jordan combined for all seven points during the run.
A basket by Lewis gave the Cougars a 15-13 lead with 2:53 left in the half. The two teams went back and forth until another Lewis basket gave the Cougars a 19-17 halftime edge.
Lewis led the Cougars with 18 points, while Skyler Wimer had 12.
The Generals still advance to the Region B, Division 1 quarterfinals, where they will host Madison County on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"It's exciting," Koontz said of the regional game. "It will be nice to have some people come to watch us play in a regional game."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org