Wildcats hold off Rams’ rally
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL — Warren County coach John Kelly got exactly what he was looking for in Friday night’s 59-47 win over Strasburg.
The Wildcats got off to a fast start, and when the Rams made a rally Kelly had several players step up to help give Warren County the Bull Run District girls basketball victory.
Kelly said so far this season the team has been leaning heavily on senior Alesha Adams, and he wanted to have more balanced scoring. Adams was struggling with a calf injury throughout the fourth quarter, and her teammates rose to the occasion.
“I’m glad they played as hard as they did when Adams went out [with the injury],” Kelly said. “They held together and a lot of that was Jordyn Beckner doing that for them and Vanessa [Calevro] The seniors stepped it up. That’s a tell-tale mark for us, is, can they do things as a group not just one player and it seems like we did tonight.”
The Wildcats (2-3, 2-1 Bull Run) led the entire way, and led by as much as 14 points in the second period. Strasburg put together a big run at the end of the third period and into the fourth. Adams left the game early in the fourth period, but did return with 2:52 left with the Wildcats clinging to a 48-47 lead.
The Rams (2-3, 1-2 Bull Run) committed three consecutive turnovers. Beckner made two free throws with 2:12 left to extend the Warren County lead to 50-47.
After a missed free throw by Warren County’s Autumn Troxell, Strasburg’s Mikala Alsberry fouled Beckner as they were battling for the rebound. Alsberry, who led Strasburg with 15 points, was then called for a technical foul for slamming the ball down after the foul was called.
“That’s why I took the timeout there at one point, I thought we were letting our emotions take too much control over us and then sure enough [the technical foul happened],” Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. “Mikala played a heck of a game for us. She’s a good kid. I felt bad for her that it happened. Obviously, we got to play a little smarter right there and make a better play.”
Beckner and Troxell made a combined three free throws as the Wildcats ended the game on an 11-0 run.
The Wildcats came out strong as they took a 20-8 lead after the first period. Adams, who scored her 1,000th career point in a win over William Monroe last week, scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the first eight minutes of the game.
“I was just kind of feeling it and my team was feeding me the ball too and getting it to me too and I think that’s what really helped,” Adams said. “And they were also trusting in me to take those shots, and that’s what also helped me to make those.”
It was the first home game for the Wildcats after four straight on the road to open the season. Adams said playing at home also helped the Wildcats play with a little extra fire against the Rams.
“We were really excited about [playing at home],” Adams said. “Our motto is we don’t lose at home, and we weren’t going to have that happen in our first [home] game.”
Strasburg usually known for its man-to-man defense came out playing zone in the first quarter, and Morgan said it was a move he wished he could take back.
“I’ll take the blame for that. We should have just come out and did what we do. We came out and tried to do a little something different,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he was proud of the way his team battled back. The Wildcats led 31-21 at the half, and Morgan said he told his team at halftime he wanted them to get the lead in single digits going into the fourth period.
Things weren’t looking good with 1:47 left in the third period as the Wildcats held a 44-32 advantage. A 3-pointer by Emily Melnikoff and a basket by Alsberry cut the lead to 44-37 at the end of the period.
“We found a way to make a little run there at the end of the third quarter cut it to seven,” Morgan said. “And our kids really started believing, and we were making some big shots.”
The Rams went on a 10-4 to start the fourth period, including back-to-back baskets by Kelsey Jenkins, which cut the lead to 48-47 with 3:26 left.
Melnikoff finished with 10 points for the Rams. Strasburg has lost several close games this season, and Morgan said they just need to find a way to finish and believe they will win.
“When that pressure grows at the end of the game, and we got a tight one, we gotta find a way to play through that and make plays,” Morgan said. “Right now we’re still trying to find our way through that and we’ll get there. We’ll stick to it. The kids will keep practicing hard, working hard. And we’ll find those wins here down the road.”
Vanessa Calvero had 12 points for the Wildcats, while Troxell had nine points and Beckner and Samantha Schroyer each had eight.
After losing three of its first four, the Wildcats are hopeful Friday’s win could turn things around for them.
“I think this gives us our spark back,” Adams said. “We did lose it for a game or two and that happens sometimes, but I think this game gave it back to us. And were ready to keep building on that and keep winning.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd