By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's strong season came to an end Tuesday night.
The Wildcats, who went on a large win streak at the end of the regular season, fell to Handley, 52-31, in a Region II, Division 3 girls basketball game. Warren County's normal starting back court of Autumn Troxell and Jordyn Beckner were suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules, according to Wildcats coach John Kelly.
"Our experienced ball handlers weren't here and it showed up in the second quarter with us," Kelly said. "We held them off for a while, but they have some good young guards that can move the ball. The inexperience at that position did catch up with us."
Things started off fine for the Wildcats, as Alesha Adams scored nine points in the first quarter. Warren County held an 11-10 edge after the opening quarter.
"We came out fired up and ready to go," Kelly said. "We actually played good basketball in the first quarter. We made good passes, good shots. Then the solid passing went away and that led to some ill-advised shots."
The Judges held a slim 13-12 lead early in the second quarter, and then went on a decisive 20-2 run during the remainder of the half.
Warren County (15-9) had trouble bringing the ball up the court, which helped lead to easy baskets for Handley.
The Judges scored 23 points in the second quarter to take a commanding 33-14 lead.
"We don't put up many points," Handley coach Marvin Scott said. "I'll take 23 points any day. We were sticking to a little bit more maturity, sticking to what we do, taking better shots."
Things didn't get any better for the Wildcats in the second half. The Judges were able to build the lead to as many as 25 points.
Alysandra Worrell had a game-high 20 points, and Angelica Robinson added 15 for the Judges.
Handley has a very young squad, and starts three freshmen. The Judges will now play at Western Albemarle in the semifinals on Thursday.
Scott said he was pleased with how his team played against the Wildcats.
"I'm proud of this team and the effort that everyone gave," Scott said. "Everybody played, so that's a good thing."
The Wildcats won the Evergreen District title this season, the first for the school in 25 years.
Warren County had won 12 of its last 14 games, before Tuesday's contest, after a 3-6 start.
Kelly said the program has taken steps forward over the last few years, and he's really proud of his team.
"It was our last year in this district, and we finished it out as champions. You couldn't ask for better than that," Kelly said. "Every season ends in a loss except for one team. I wish it could have been different circumstances, but the ones that were here played their hearts out."
Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org