Worn-out SVA falls to Highland

By Brad Fauber

NEW MARKET — Shenandoah Valley Academy’s girls basketball team may have been feeling the effects of an unrelenting schedule when the Stars took on visiting Highland School on Thursday evening.

Playing their fourth game in four days, the Stars were understandably a little fatigued when they took the court against the Hawks. Add in the fact that most of SVA’s team is fighting illnesses — including head coach Jeff Twomley, who was absent on Thursday — and you get an undesirable combination that led to a 57-15 loss for the Stars.

“This was their fourth game this week. They’re exhausted,” said SVA assistant coach Andrew Smalls, who handled the head coaching duties in Twomley’s absence. “Everybody’s sick. I’m sick, most of the kids are sick. But besides that I was real disappointed because their minds and their heads weren’t into this game.”

SVA mustered very little offense against Highland’s aggressive 3-2 zone defense, as the Stars hit just 7 of 44 shots from the floor and failed to score more than five points in any period. The Hawks also forced SVA into 29 turnovers.

“I think our defense is our best offense, and anytime that we’re able to set some traps and anticipate the next pass is when we’re at our best,” Hawks coach Gary Leake said. “To be honest, this is a really good soccer team playing basketball. Ninety percent of our girls play either girls lacrosse or soccer, so they understand defensive rotations. Some of that is the same, so it’s easy to teach them defense when they’re accustomed to playing defense like that in other sports.”

Highland School took advantage of the Stars’ poor shooting early, as the Hawks built a 12-0 lead in the first period as freshman Stefanie Hoerner and seniors Michele Micciche and Shelby Thornhill all tallied four points apiece during the run.

SVA finally got on the board on a baseline jumper by sophomore Chloe Petit with 15 seconds left in the first quarter, but Thornhill heated up in the second period, as she hit three straight shots to start the frame to help Highland extend its lead to 22-2.

Thornhill, who played sparingly in the second half, finished with a game-high 11 points.

“I’ve been in a slump, so it’s good to get back,” Thornhill said. “I’m really happy about it. A lot prayers went into it tonight and I’m glad we could do this together as a team.”

Hawks freshman Ashton Eicher (eight points) came off the bench midway through the second period and drilled a pair of 3-pointers to help send Highland into halftime with a 28-6 lead.

Highland shot just 27.9 percent (19 for 68) from the floor in the game, but the Hawks placed a heavy emphasis on getting each player a chance to score. All eight of Highland’s players scored at least three points in the win.

“I think we had five girls from eight to 11 [points], so we were very balanced,” Leake said. “It was good to see the kids respond. We’ve been working a lot on shooting form and shot selection, and so I think that paid off tonight.”

Leake sat three of his starters for the entire third quarter, but Highland still managed to outscored SVA 20-4 in the frame as the Stars managed just two field goals in the period.

“We were forcing a lot of shots,” Smalls said. “We weren’t working our high post, which opens up the floor a little bit more. We had a couple people who were playing out of position and felt like they had to force the issue instead of just trusting each other.”

Petit led the Stars with four points, while Carla Navarro added three for SVA.

Micciche finished with 10 points for Highland, while senior Colby Newson had six steals to go along with four points.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD