By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL --Clarke County High School's Regina Downing was one unhappy coach on Monday night.
Downing couldn't muster much of a positive spin following the Eagles' Bull Run District girls basketball game against Warren County. As dour as Downing seemed afterward, you can only imagine her mood when the Eagles entered the halftime break tied with the Wildcats.
It didn't stay that way, as Clarke County surged ahead to a commanding lead in the third quarter to pick up a 49-39 victory.
Here's Downing's assessment of her team's first half: "We stunk up the floor in the first half, basically."
And here's the postgame, even after the Eagles took control to secure a 10-point win and avenge an earlier loss to the Wildcats this season.
"We did not play too good," Downing said. "I'm not too happy about this win. We just weren't executing on offense, more than anything. We were jogging a lot, not hustling back on defense and cutting hard on the offensive end -- just kind of walking through things."
Clarke County (11-2, 9-2 Bull Run) had some payback in mind following Warren County's 29-28 win back on Jan. 10, a game Downing said the Eagles went into two players short. In the third quarter, the Eagles finally started to exact a bit of revenge by finding gaps in Warren County's zone.
The Eagles' junior post player Sydney Chrane had six points in a 10-0 run to open the second half as Clarke surged ahead. Warren County (8-6, 7-3) briefly regrouped as Paige McLachlan hit a short jumper in the lane and Alesha Adams sank a free throw to cut the deficit back to seven at 32-25 with 2:29 left in the quarter, but the Eagles closed out the period with another 7-0 run to lead 39-25 heading into the fourth quarter. Clarke's Anna Blue Catlett had seven points in that decisive quarter. Catlett tied Chrane with a team-high 17 points.
"The difference maker was [Catlett]. She had a great second half," Wildcats coach John Kelly said. "She went outside and she posted up inside. We did nothing against her."
Adams said the Wildcats had some breakdowns on defense, and the Eagles were quick to take advantage.
"We got a little out of sorts on defense, and I think that's what allowed them to penetrate and score," Adams said. "Once we fix that, I think we'll be all right. We need to learn to close up quicker."
The Wildcats still had a spark in the fourth quarter, thanks to Adams. The senior guard scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the final eight minutes, with her fadeaway jumper pulling Warren County back to within 43-38 with 2:04 to play.
The Eagles had the answer in the form of junior forward Allison Hicks, who scored a pair of critical baskets in the paint to squelch Warren County's hopes.
Outside of another big night by Adams, who is just 10 points away from setting the school's new all-time girls basketball scoring record, the Wildcats didn't muster much on offense against the Eagles. Autumn Troxell added eight points and six rebounds for Warren County.
"They had some pretty good defense," Adams said. "I think we need to work on our timing, when to pass and when to actually penetrate and seeing that open space. Our court sense is there. I think at times it just comes and goes."
Chrane had a tremendous all-around night for the Eagles, adding 14 rebounds and four blocks to go along with her 17 points. Combined with Catlett, it was a devastating 1-2 scoring punch for the Eagles.
"They play very well together," Kelly said. "You can tell they're very well-coached because they're able to open up and get the pass inside. We're getting there to play defense on them, but that's a solid twosome."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>