By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County girls basketball coach John Kelly sensed that the Wildcats weren't necessarily playing with the proper mindset in Friday's Bull Run District/Conference 28 matchup with visiting Central.
The Wildcats held a four-point lead at halftime, but Kelly's locker room speech focused on the importance of executing the small things.
Warren County apparently got the message, as the Wildcats held off Central for a 67-59 win.
"That was our big talk at halftime, that rebounds and free throws are going to win ballgames," Kelly said. "I think we were 9 for 10 in the second half. That really was the difference maker against a very physical team like Central."
Things started off well for Warren County (9-4, 7-2 Bull Run), as the Wildcats opened the game on a 7-0 run, as senior Alesha Adams converted a conventional 3-point play and junior Autumn Troxell added four points during the run.
Central (10-5, 7-3) responded to cut the Wildcats' lead to 10-8 with 2:40 left in the first period as sophomore Meredith Phillips nailed a deep jumper as part of her four points during the rally. Warren County pushed the lead back to six on back-to-back buckets by Adams and Troxell, but a layup by Phillips off her steal brought the Falcons within four points at the end of the first quarter.
The two teams traded buckets early in the second period, but the Wildcats used a 7-1 run capped by a Troxell runner to take a 27-19 lead with 2:50 left in the frame.
"Our defense was terrible," Falcons coach Mallory Skarupa-Minster said. "We don't sit down -- half of us sit down and play defense, and the other two underneath don't come over to help, our feet are dead and we reach in and they call a foul, and we bail them out."
Central immediately answered, however, as sophomore Cianne Fields dropped in five points as part of a Falcons run that cut the Wildcats' lead to 30-26 at the half.
The Falcons picked up the pace in the second half, as Central outscored Warren County 21-15 in the period. Eight different Falcons scored points in the frame, including six by Phillips, who led Central with 12 total points.
Warren County, fueled by eight points in the third quarter by Adams, maintained its lead for most of the frame, but the Falcons finally tied the game at 41-all on a 3-pointer from the wing by Sydney Plum with 2:35 left in the third.
The Wildcats reclaimed a 45-41 lead with 1:41 to play in the frame, but Central ended the period with a 6-0 run and carried a 47-45 lead into the final quarter.
A fast-break layup by Mary Wakeman gave Central a 50-49 lead with 6:25 remaining, but Warren County reclaimed the lead for good on a stickback by Lauren Woodrell with six minutes to play.
Warren County closed the game on a 10-4 run, as the Wildcats were able to work the ball for a pair of wide-open layups against the Falcons' aggressive defense, and Troxell knocked down four key free throws over the final 22 seconds.
"We ran a four-high against [Central's defense] and we were looking for the angle drives, and that worked in the first half," Kelly said. "We changed in the fourth quarter to a similar offense ... and we also ran middle cuts, and that was open in the fourth quarter, which gave us some free throws and layups inside."
The Falcons made just 4 of 11 free throws in the final frame, while Warren County was a perfect 6-for-6 over the final eight minutes.
Adams led Warren County with 22 points and five blocks, while Troxell added 20 points for the Wildcats.
Katelyn Poston, who came off the bench to start the game, and Plum each had 11 points for the Falcons.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com