Strasburg surprises Falcons

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

WOODSTOCK — Two days can make a big difference.

Central and Strasburg are both aware of that fact after Monday’s 45-41 Strasburg victory in the girls basketball Bull Run District tournament quarterfinals. The Falcons beat the Rams, 59-34, on Saturday to close out the regular season. The Rams had lost to the Falcons 10 straight times, dating back to Jan. 8, 2010.

“Honestly, I’ve never felt this way in my life,” Strasburg’s Kenzy McKelvey said. “It’s the greatest feeling ever.”

McKelvey played a huge role in Strasburg pulling out the victory, with five of her team-high 10 points in the final two minutes and a huge rebound.

Central led 39-34 with 2:30 left, but McKelvey’s 3-pointer cut the lead to two with 1:18 remaining.

“Last season I was perfect at it, and then this season hasn’t been my best,” McKelvey said of her 3-point shooting. “But I’ve been pulling through. I’ve been working hard at shooting, and today it was just my night.”

Strasburg’s Mikala Alsberry then hit three free throws in a three-second span to give the Rams a 40-39 lead with 40 seconds left.

Central’s Katelyn Poston drove the ball straight down the floor and scored on a layup to give the Falcons the lead right back, 41-40.

A basket by Kelsey Jenkins gave Strasburg the lead for good with 20 seconds left. After a turnover by Central, Strasburg’s Carey Scott, who finished with eight points, was fouled and made the first of two free throws, but missed the second one.

McKelvey grabbed the loose ball rebound and was fouled with 11 seconds left.

“I knew I had to push through and just go my hardest,” McKelvey said. “I had four fouls so I knew I couldn’t foul, but I knew I had to give it my all. So I just went for the ball.”

McKelvey then made both free throws with 11 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

“[McKelvey] gave us some outstanding minutes out there tonight,” Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. “She had a big game for us, a big lift.”

Central (15-8) started the game off well, scoring 17 points to lead 17-10 after the first period. Strasburg had trouble scoring early, and both teams combined to score only three points in the first 3:30 of the second period.

The Rams (13-10) used a 9-0 run to take a 20-19 lead in the final minute of the first half.

“At times they get kind of down when they’re not scoring, and I didn’t think that happened to us tonight,” Morgan said. “We had some stretches where we didn’t really score, and that didn’t happen to us. I thought our kids stayed upbeat and were able to battle through it.”

Strasburg used a 7-0 spurt, aided by three points from McKelvey, to take a 32-28 lead late in the third period. Poston made three free throws in the final minute to cut the lead to one heading into the final period.

Central used an 8-2 run to start the fourth period, including four points by Poston, to take a 39-34 lead heading into the final minutes.

“Even there in the fourth quarter we had some moments there late where we had some bad possessions on offense, and our kids really made some outstanding plays down the stretch,” Morgan said. “And just after what we looked like on Saturday to turn back around here on Monday and get a big win, I can’t say enough about how proud I am, not just tonight, but all year. We’ve just been a different team than what we were last year and basically with the same players.”

Poston led the Falcons with 21 points, while Tamra Scott had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Brooklyn Pumphrey had five points and 11 rebounds for the Falcons.

The Falcons were 14-for-35 from the free-throw line. Central will be off until Feb. 19. Central will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s Conference 28 tournament and will get a bye in the first round.

“We talked in the locker room before the game, this is an essentially a meaningless game, but what do we want to be remembered for?,” Central coach Mallory Skarupa-Minster said. “What do you want your legacy to be? We have a pretty good record, but we’re not going to make it to the next level unless we play hard and we want it. We have to play with a little passion, a little fire and intensity, and that’s what the purple and white did tonight, not the blue and gold.

“Hopefully, we’ll learn from our mistakes.”

Strasburg will now play at top-seeded George Mason today at 7 p.m. in the tournament semifinals. The Rams will play in the Conference 35 tournament quarterfinals next week, and Morgan said he’s hoping this win will give his team a lift.

“I’m hoping this is a real confidence boost as we move through tomorrow night, and into next week, more importantly, in the conference tournament,” Morgan said. “We needed a win like this over one of the teams that had been playing at the top of the league for the last couple years, and to get one here tonight — it was just exciting.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com