By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy girls basketball coach Lauren Culler needed less than a minute to decide to scrap the Patriots' man-to-man defense against Musselman (W.Va.) on Thursday night.
Two quick baskets inside by Applemen forward Ivanna Beasley prompted Culler to call for a change to a 3-2 zone, which the Patriots played almost exclusively the rest of the way. Here's why -- after those two Musselman field goals in the first minute, SVCA only allowed three more the entire game, including none in the second half in an easy 43-17 victory.
"Our defense won this game tonight," Culler said. "They hustled and they denied the ball inside, and were quick to avoid the outside shot."
The first quarter was back-and-forth, as SVCA (2-1) fell behind 6-0 early and didn't take the lead until Kristen Hotek's layup on a fast break capped a 7-0 run to make it 7-6 with 2:23 left in the quarter. The Patriots only led 11-9 after that first period, but the Applemen were about to go ice cold from the field.
After hitting 4 of 12 shots in the first eight minutes, Musselman managed just a 1-for-10 showing in the second quarter. That was still better than the final two quarters, when the Applemen went 0-for-20 from the field.
Part of the problem for the Applemen was a lack of defensive pressure. SVCA had just one turnover in the first half -- that on a dubious away from the ball technical foul -- and totaled only six in the game while forcing 21 turnovers.
Musselman coach Amanda Burge said her short-handed squad didn't apply the pressure it could against the Patriots.
"We were trying to, we just weren't listening," Burge said.
Beasley tied the game back up with another basket in the paint with 7:07 left in the second quarter, but SVCA's Carol Bartholomew answered with two straight baskets and Hotek got loose inside again to prompt a Musselman timeout.
Later in the second, Hannah McGann buried a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to nine, and Grace Snyder (game-high 13 points) sank another trey with just six seconds left in the half to boost the Patriots' lead to 23-12 at the break.
SVCA outscored the Applemen 20-5 in the second half to steadily pull away.
"We have a couple kids out," Burge said. "We're dealing with a little bit of adversity with injuries and all those types of things, and I think we a young team that comes into play a little bit. But by the same token, we've got to do the little things it takes."
The game against a public school opponent was the third this week for the Patriots, who knocked off Dominion on Monday and lost to Millbrook on Wednesday night.
"We've raised our program, and for us to maintain that we need to play tough teams and competitive teams," Culler said. "And they're local, so that works travel-wise time. They're willing to play us because we are competitive. We just want to build our program, and you've got to do that by playing better teams."
Bartholomew, who finished with seven points and three blocks, is glad to face some stiffer competition since the Patriots have largely dominated Virginia Association of Christian Athletics competition the last couple seasons. The Patriots have upcoming games against West Virginia public schools Jefferson and Washington, plus a return trip to Musselman, and will also face James Wood twice this season.
"We don't usually have much competition in the VACA, so it's like really big competition when we play the public schools," Bartholomew said. "It helps us prepare for states and we go to NACA for nationals."
Danielle Burdette and Taylor Stocks each had seven rebounds for the Applemen, who outrebounded the Patriots 34-20.
Samantha Yarnall added eight points and a team-high eight rebounds for SVCA.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>