Falcons dial up pressure to ground Mountaineers

By Jeff Nations

WOODSTOCK — Central High School girls basketball coach Mallory Skarupa-Minster was less than thrilled with the Falcons’ press in their season opener earlier this week.

True, Central did pick up the victory over Warren County. Skarupa-Minster still found something to work on the next day in practice, and that emphasis on dialing up the pressure another notch surely showed in Wednesday night’s home game against Madison County. The Falcons forced 15 first-quarter turnovers to build a sizable lead and tallied 36 turnovers overall in an easy 60-34 victory.

“We didn’t quite have our press the way we wanted it to work on Monday night against Warren, so we wanted to work on that and get even better at that tonight,” Skarupa-Minster said. “I think they did a really good job of that, especially right off the bat. They came out with a lot of intensity and kept that intensity through the first half.”

Central (2-0, 2-0 Bull Run District) was the first to shake off a slow start, and the Falcons did it with that newfound intensity. Skarupa-Minster said she focused on telling her players to keep their hands up and in the passing lanes, and that’s just where they were for three straight inbounds plays midway through the quarter. The result? Three straight layups off steals that sparked Central to a 6-2 lead and seemed to energize the defense even more.

Madison County (0-1, 0-1 Bull Run) had precious few opportunities to score in those first eight minutes. The Mountaineers managed only six shots from the field as the turnovers mounted up. Central held a 20-8 lead by the end of that quarter, and the Mountaineers could do little to trim the deficit.

Senior guard Katelyn Poston was a prime instigator for the Falcons, tying teammate Sydney Plum with six steals on the night. Central tallied 15 steals in the first half and 21 overall.

“Our press this year is definitely really working for us,” Poston said. “We’re getting a lot of steals because we’re quick. I think that’s a huge advantage. We’re small in size, but we’ve got a lot of speed on our team.”

The Falcons kept up the heat in the second quarter, forcing eight more turnovers. Madison County did settle down somewhat by slowing down and trying to force the ball inside to center Sierra Smith, with mixed success.

Leading 30-19 at halftime, Central delivered the knockout blow to start the third quarter. Poston keyed a 12-0 run to open the frame by knocking down two straight 3-pointers in the first minute of the third quarter, and that was that for the Mountaineers. Central outscored Madison 18-6 in the period as the Mountaineers went cold from the field with a 2-for-14 shooting effort.

Poston finished with a game-high 24 points, and added four assists. Central’s Mary Wakeman also reached double digits in scoring with 13 points.

For the Mountaineers, Chandler Gentry had a team-best 16 points and Smith nearly notched a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The win, the first for any current Central player against Madison County, was nice. Skarupa-Minster still saw more work to be done heading into Friday’s road game against county rival Stonewall Jackson.

“We were a little lackluster in the second half,” Skarupa-Minster said. “We need to work on playing a full 32 minutes.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>