By Tommy Keeler Jr.
PURCELLVILLE -- High-fives and hugs were the order of the day on the Central bench as the final horn sounded. Central senior Sydney Plum leaped into the arms of freshman Tamra Scott as the celebration began.
With a stifling defense, and a gritty offense the Falcons were able to become the first-ever Conference 28 champions as they defeated Loudoun Valley, 45-32, in the Conference 28 girls basketball final on Friday night.
"It's awesome," Central senior point guard Katelyn Poston said. "A really overwhelming feeling."
The game started off a little slow for the Falcons, as Loudoun Valley took an early 5-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game.
The Falcons responded with their defense. The Vikings only hit one of their next 15 shots during a nine-minute stretch.
The Falcons (17-8) did just enough on offense during that span to take the lead for good.
"We're starting to play our best defense at the right time," Scott said. "Our defense has been picking up awesome the last couple games. We started out a little eh, in the beginning, but now we're picking it up and we're playing awesome."
Central went on a 9-2 run, led by four points from Poston, to take a 9-7 lead with 7:36 left in the second period.
The two teams traded baskets until two free throws each from Scott and Cianne Fields gave the Falcons a 17-13 edge with 44 seconds left in the first half.
The Vikings tied the game at 19-19 early in the third period, but Central responded with a 7-0 and led by at least four points the rest of the way. Scott scored three points during the spurt.
"KP [Poston] had some awesome dishes into me, everybody had good looks," Scott said.
The Vikings were able to cut the lead to 28-24 with back-to-back baskets to start the fourth period, but Central once again responded.
After trading baskets, the Falcons used a 7-0 run to pull away for good. Rebecca Truban had three points for the Falcons during the run.
Central held Loudoun Valley to 25.0 percent (14-for-56) from the field. The Vikings had a balanced attack on offense with eight different players scoring.
"Part of that was we were trying to anticipate the box-and-one on KP [Poston], so we said everybody's got to be a scorer. We've got to distribute," Central coach Mallory Skarupa said. "That doesn't mean KP [Poston] that you're not allowed to score, you're not going to score, but we can't force it into you. We've got to make smart decisions. I think for the most part we did that."
The Vikings (15-7) mostly used a 2-3 zone, foul trouble limited how much they were able to us the box-and-one.
Central went back and forth between a 2-3 zone and man-to-man. Skarupa said when the two teams met earlier this season (a 62-41 Viking win), the Falcons did not do a good job of getting out on Loudoun Valley's shooters.
"We really emphasized getting a hand up in their face," Skarupa said.
The Vikings were led by Rachel Bowyer with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Poston led the Falcons with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Scott added nine points and 11 rebounds.
Both teams advance to next week's 3A East region tournament. The Falcons will host James Monroe on Monday in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. It's the second region appearance in the last three years for the Falcons.
"We're just going to out there with the same amount of energy we've been coming out with, hopefully, maybe even more, and just try to continue our season as long as we can," Poston said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd