Falcons closing in on state berth

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Central coach Mallory Skarupa gave her team a pep talk before the Falcons’ win over James Monroe on Monday night.

“We talked before the game about coming together,” Skarupa said. “‘Falcons fly as one unit, one team, one heart out there tonight’ — and they did that. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Now Skarupa and her team are hoping they can keep their postseason run going when they play John Marshall Wednesday night at Kettle Run High School at 6 p.m. in the 3A East regional semifinals. The winner advances to the Class 3A state semifinals.

Playing together as a team has been one of the biggest keys to the Falcons’ success in the playoffs.

Central (18-8) is led by senior point guard Katelyn Poston, the Conference 28 Player of the Year. Poston is averaging over 19 points a game, and has two games of 30 points or more in the postseason, including back-to-back double-doubles.

However, Central’s supporting cast was just as big in the Falcons’ 70-57 win over James Monroe. Sophomore Meredith Phillips had 18 points, including nine in the fourth period, and senior Mary Wakeman had seven of her 11 points in the final quarter.

Everyone who played contributed in some way, and that’s what Skarupa said she hopes to see continue against John Marshall.

The Justices (16-7) are led by sophomore guard Dajouneik Wingfield, who scored 27 points in their 63-58 win over Poquoson on Monday night. Senior point guard Antoinette Pickett also played a key role in that victory with 12 points and 11 assists.

“We are expecting them to be athletic, scrappy, good drivers, and rely on the 3-point shot,” Skarupa said. “Once again, it’s going to come down to defense and playing together, playing our game.”

Central is one of the last eight teams standing in its classification for the first time since 1996-97, when the Falcons won the Group A girls basketball title.

“We always have that optimism that we’re going to be able to make it as far in the season as we can, but I think we’re surprising a lot of people,” Poston said. “We’re surprising ourselves a little bit, but it’s a great kind of surprise.”

Central has a good balance of seniors and underclassmen. They have four seniors, Poston, Wakeman, Sydney Plum and Rebecca Truban, and three freshman, three sophomores and two juniors.

Phillips said the younger players really want to do well for the seniors.

“I’ve been with the seniors now for two years, and they have great leadership,” Phillips said. “They get us pumped up in the locker room before the game with music. We watch movies and bond before the games. It definitely helps get ourselves pumped up before the game.”

The Falcons had a solid regular season, but are clearly playing their best basketball of the season right now. The Falcons have defeated three strong teams in the last week to get to this point, and Phillips said she believes the team can keep it going.

“We’re definitely surprising ourselves, but we know that we have it in us and we just have to pull it out,” Phillips said. “Being one win away from states is exciting, nerve wracking. So, we know we have to take it one at a time and just get there. And once were there, I think we can do big things.”

Skarupa said that the players, especially the seniors aren’t ready for the season to come to an end.

“For us, for our seniors, they don’t want it to end,” Skarupa said. “We talked about their legacy, what they’re going to leave behind, and we had a good regular season but no one’s going to remember that. We got to leave our legacy and build on that now.

“Now’s the time.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd