By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's girls basketball team entered Monday's Bull Run District matchup against visiting Rappahannock County with its focus zeroed in on playing lockdown defense against the struggling Panthers. That emphasis worked well for the Wildcats.
Warren County switched defensive looks early and often against Rappahannock County, and the Wildcats rolled as they held the Panthers scoreless for nearly 17 minutes in a 65-15 blowout victory.
"We really focused on working on our defense and making it ours. We're always looking to work on that and today we came out strong," said Wildcats senior guard Alesha Adams, who led Warren County with five steals to go along with a co-game-high 16 points. "We had some points where it was alright, but throughout the game we really got into our defensive game."
Rappahannock County (1-12, 0-11 Bull Run) had a rough time offensively against the Wildcats, who utilized a combination of full-court pressure and aggressive half-court sets to limit the Panthers' offensive opportunities.
The Panthers shot just 15 percent (6 for 40) from the field and turned the ball over 34 times. Warren County (10-6, 8-4) tallied 19 steals.
Sticking to what has become the staple of Warren County's defense this season, the Wildcats shadowed Rappahannock County's best scorer, freshman guard Kayla Robey, with senior guard Jordyn Beckner for most of the night.
Robey, whom Wildcats coach John Kelly said scored 15 of the Panthers' first 17 points in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 13, finished Monday's game with just one point.
"I came in with the goal of not letting her score at all," said Beckner, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals. "Its actually really nerve-wracking trying to shut down the best player because you know if they score it's on you. It's something where I just kind of watch them, learn how they're playing and just go with it."
Warren County needed little time to put the game out of reach, as Adams converted a quick layup off the opening tip, stole the ensuing inbounds pass and hit a jumper on the low block to jumpstart a 10-0 Wildcats run to open the game.
Panthers junior Kathryn Fisher banked in a deep jumper to put Rappahannock County on the board with 3:30 left in the first period, but the Panthers wouldn't score for the rest of the half.
The Wildcats took a 16-2 lead into the second period, and built a 26-2 halftime advantage. Warren County forced 19 turnovers in the first half.
"We run different styles of pressure defense, and we're constantly switching it up, so it keeps them having to play to what we're running as opposed to what they're running on offense," Kelly said.
"Our press is really starting to become much more effective. We're able to get the pass over the top with Autumn [Troxell] up front... It allows us to pressure up some."
Warren County built its lead to 41-2 midway through the third period as Troxell and Beckner combined to score 13 of the first 15 points in the frame. Rappahannock County finally ended its scoring drought with a runner on the block by senior Lilian Endre with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Kelly used mostly reserves in the fourth period, but Warren County still managed to outscore the Panthers 20-6 in the final frame behind seven points apiece from Troxell and sophomore Samantha Schroyer.
Troxell finished with 16 points (all of which came in the second half), five rebounds and three steals, while Schroyer finished with nine points and four rebounds for the Wildcats. Senior Vanessa Calevro added three steals, three blocks and two points for Warren County.
The Wildcats hit 24 of 66 shots (36.4 percent) from the floor and were 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) from the free-throw line.
"I thought we shot well outside tonight," Kelly said. "We didn't shoot well on layups inside tonight at all. We actually missed a lot of easy layups inside that we have to convert to win games. That was kind of the speech [after the game], is that you have to finish inside before you can hit the ball outside."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD